Teachers union must pay own way

One budget item School District 51 doesn’t have to worry about is funding the Mesa Valley Education Association.

The union was recognized in a Sunday Denver Post article as the only teacher representation group among the 20-largest school districts in Colorado to go without financial support from a district. MVEA reimburses District 51 for the salary, benefits and insurance of the organization’s president, Jim Smyth, and reimburses the district for substitute teachers when the group sends a teacher to contract negotiations or a Colorado Education Association training.

Smyth is serving a second two-year term as president and taught at East Middle School before becoming MVEA president. He is considered a “teacher on assignment” while he serves as president of the association, a post 16 of the 20 largest Colorado school districts pay to staff, according to the Denver Post article.

District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz said he’s not sure how or why the tradition of the union reimbursing the district for the president’s pay started. But he said that arrangement, which is included each year in a contract negotiated between the district and the union, makes sense.

“I can understand why there would be outrage if there were (district) money going to that but that’s not how we do it here,” Schultz said.

He added he thinks keeping district and union money separate is “a healthy thing to do.”

“It’s just obvious. They’re advocating for activities and programs and want to have some autonomy,” Schultz said.

Smyth said the approximately 900 members of MVEA pay dues and those dues pay for association activity, including his salary reimbursement and reimbursement for substitute teachers.

“I think it’s extremely important that we pull our own weight, that we grow as professionals,” Smyth said.

He said the association wanted to prioritize spending on training especially after district money for teachers to attend conferences and trainings decreased during recent years’ budget cuts. He said having the association pay for that training both gives teachers new ideas for the classroom and frees them from any obligation to present what they learned with other teachers on their own time.

Smyth said what other districts and unions do is their own concern.

“That’s entirely up to them,” he said. Training “doesn’t hurt the profession, no matter who pays for it. If you’re creating stronger teachers, kids are going to be the beneficiaries.”


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