DEERFIELD, Kan. – Teachers in this small Kansas town have voted to de-certify their teachers’ union, paving the way for the teachers to gain more local control of bargaining rights.
“All teachers have the ability to meet with the board if they wish to, and so it’s just a better opportunity for us teachers to voice our opinions with the school board,” said Doug Crandall, a science teacher at Deerfield Middle School who helped lead the effort.
The vote was a close one. After a 13-13 tie vote in May, a second ballot went 11-10 in favor of de-certifying the Deerfield Teachers Association, which, as the local extension of the Kansas National Education Association teachers’ union, had exclusive bargaining rights with the Deerfield unified school district.
Now, all the teachers have a say in contract negotiations with USD 216.
The DTA only had five dues-paying members, which was a sticking point with the majority who voted to de-certify.
“Just the issue that less than 20 percent of our teachers had a voice was the thing that brought us to this vote,” Crandall said.
“There’s a lot of information we had and could easily get to share with them so that when they met with the board, they were in a good position, and we really can’t do that anymore,” said Pamela Torgerson with the KNEA.
Deerfield is the second municipality in Kansas to de-certify its union, following in the path of Riley County educators in 2009.
State union leaders worry about the Deerfield teachers’ ability to get a fair deal on their own.
“The new people, they’re on their own,” Torgerson said. “They’re going to have to figure out what they want and how to do it. There’s no training for them, so if they haven’t done it before, they could be in a not so good situation.”
But Deerfield teachers like Crandall are confident the move will benefit students and teachers alike.
“This will be a little better because we know all the board members,” he said. “We go to church with them, we go out to eat with them, we go to ballgames with them. So there’s no reason we can’t sit down and just talk to them.”
It is important to note the vote does not eliminate the Deerfield Teachers Association, only its ability to negotiate with Deerfield’s school board. The remaining members of DTA are still part of the KNEA.