Within big-tent groups like unions, various agendas, factions and viewpoints successfully, or not so successfully sometimes, meld into a coherent single voice. The struggle is always to unite, and hold, all of the different groups in order to retain the clout big numbers offer. The Republican Party has been open about its struggle to represent its conservative wings while trying to reach out to more moderate voters.
That battle is also being waged by the powerful Washington Education Association, and as I wrote in my latest column cracks are beginning to appear in the facade of the 82,000-member union.
Dissent in the WEA is growing, a sign perhaps of how high the stakes are for teachers. On virtually every significant education issue, from merit pay to tenure to testing, the union weighs in strongly and unequivocally, meanwhile my email inbox fills with more nuanced, or even dissenting, views from teachers. Some, like a candidate to replace WEA president Mary Lindquist – Oak Harbor Education Association President Peter Szalai – believe the union concedes too much to pro-education reformers. Others, like teacher advoacy group, Teachers United , think the union should embrace reforms more. There are other examples of teachers operating on the margins of the union, offering a broader viewpoint. The challenge for the union is to embrace differing views while holding its sizeable center.
The WEA surveyed 600 of its members in February and found most were satisfied with the union. Members with six years or less reported the least amount of satisfaction. The most support was found among members who had been teaching between six and 10 years.