Support non-union teachers

My name is Cindy Omlin. I am the director of Northwest Professional Educators, a nonpartisan, nonunion association providing educators with classroom resources, professional support such as liability insurance and legal services, grants, and other benefits designed to advance academic professionals. We are not a union and we do not negotiate teacher contracts.

I’d like to share ideas about our goal of increasing effective teachers and leaders. We believe that positive change will only occur when all educators are heard and respected.

Teachers have a variety of ideas and opinions to bring to the dialogue — many of which differ from that of teacher union leaders.

Innovation and achievement can only flourish when the structures, policies, and actions that promote union favoritism and group think are eliminated. Currently in the exclusive bargaining environment of the schools, many teachers remain silent or disassociated from the professional organization of their choice because they fear that expressing their views or refraining from union membership will cause them to experience pressure, retribution, or ostracism. This markedly decreases effective professional collaboration that can lead to higher student achievement and the development of teacher leaders.

We encourage the Task Force to promote legislation that will advance teacher professionalism, leadership and effectiveness by supporting a teachers’ right to know and equal access bill that would implement an educational climate that is open to fresh ideas and a diversity of teacher voices. It would nurture cooperation and mutual respect by ensuring that teachers know their rights and what is expected under Idaho’s right to work statute, inform them of their options for professional associations, and require equal access for both union and nonunion teacher associations.

We believe that a law promoting teachers’ right to work and freedom of association will lead to increased teacher willingness to explore and implement decentralized models and appropriate decision making levels, including a variety of bargaining and collaboration models that best fit local communities.

  • Tim Farmer

    Great to see that ALL teachers are being given a choice and a voice! Let’s hope laws will be passed to help promote this!

    • Josh Ritchie

      Please explain what you mean by “a voice” because it sounds like rhetoric. Currently my BEA President meets at least weekly with the district and talks to them constantly. Let’s say for example that I have concerns about how teachers are moved within district, policies for setting course pre-requisites, why computers in my room aren’t working, how we deal the the repeating of a course on a transcript, how recess duties are assigned, getting training I feel I need, or how much time we are given to do report cards. How would I have “a voice” with NWPE? If I will have more of a voice with NWPE than i did when the BEA addressed my concerns I will join immediately. If they can show that they could provide any real voice at all with my district on these issues I will buy pizza for the NWPE office.

  • Bruce Twitchell

    Is the IEA going to get a free advertisement as well?
    Seems that would be fair- news media should present both sides of an issue.

  • Lilburn Wesche

    Apparently Ms Olmlin knows little about school organization and the structure of the teachers’ union. Individual input is a key part of union decision making and the ‘group think’ comment makes no sense. Considering the size of most districts the idea that each teacher should be their own ‘organization’ presenting curricular, salary and other proposals and desires to the school board is a ridiculous assumption.

    • Cindy Omlin

      Actually, Dr. Wesche, I was a teacher union member and representative and attended the WEA Leadership Academy. When my views clashed with my union’s views, I experienced numerous intimidation tactics to thwart my free speech rights. Not all teachers are willing to face ostracism, discrimination, and intimidation by their colleagues for disagreeing with union views, so they remain silent rather than provoke backlash. It’s a survival tactic in an already extremely stressful job and one of the factors leading to “group think.”

  • Alix Freeze

    Thanks for this amazing commentary, Cindy! Teachers deserve the right to make informed decisions.

  • Jan Studer

    NWPE is far from non-partisan; unfortunately its political stands are whatever Cindy Omlin believes since members have NO voice in the vision and actions of this out-of-state organization. There is so much more involved in guaranteeing a quality education for all of Idaho’s children than being offered gift cards and on-line professional courses. Most educational decisions are made in the political arena, and Cindy Omlin, representing NWPE, knows this and actively participates in the process. (See Support Non-Union Teachers and the NWPE website.) Forming the NWPE has given Ms. Omlin a voice in the political process in Idaho, something she could not have without those teachers who have joined NWPE. NWPE educators should not be fooled by the “non-union, non-partisan” rhetoric, but rather consider checking out the political stands of the woman collecting their dues to make sure they support her views.

    • Barbara Amidon

      As current Boundary County Education Association member, and former candidate for an IEA state officer position, Ms Studer is certainly not a neutral voice. In fact, Jan Studer is the strident voice representing tired political positions of the Idaho Education Association and the National Education Association.
      Northwest Professional Educators was created as a tri-state organization (Idaho, Washington and Oregon) for the sole purpose of providing a non-union option and to give teachers a real voice in any position NWPE takes. The teachers union (IEA, BCEA) is one of the most partisan organizations in the country! As a founding member of NWPE and board president, I know for a fact the only positions that NWPE has taken are those reflecting a supermajority (75%) of its members and they have nothing to do with Ms. Omlin’s personal political views. As director of the association, she doesn’t vote on member surveys.

      Unlike the NEA and IEA, NWPE is not a union and does not endorse political candidates.
      I appreciate Northwest Professional Educators because it offers a nonpartisan association to educators who desire professional protection along with collegiality, professional support, classroom resources, and the opportunity to be heard without being censored, ignored or charged exorbitant dues. Northwest Professional Educators is a perfect fit for many Idaho teachers, just as it is for me.

      • Josh Ritchie

        I don’t understand what you mean by “opportunity to be heard.” My cat gives me an opportunity to be heard. What is it you want them to hear? An opportunity to be heard is only valuable if the listener has some ability to help the situation. They do not get involved in political matters, bargaining, or helping with anything you might want to have a voice about. They offer insurance. I just don’t see this voice that keeps being referred to.

  • Travis Manning

    Ms. Omlin, teachers already have “local control” of their negotiations process. Local IEA affiliates all bargain with school districts based on what the majority of their local membership wants; it’s a very democratic process. If you are for collective bargaining as you say, you wouldn’t have supported the Luna education laws like you did – which limit collective bargaining.

    “Innovative bargaining model”? Where, exactly, is this model being used in Idaho? I’d like to talk to teachers who use this model to see really how well it works for them. Please email me their contact information at so that I might personally speak with them.

    I have also heard concerns from NWPE members that when they need legal representation, they may or may not actually get an attorney, and s/he may or may not be an expert in education law from Idaho. Idaho teachers expect legal counsel on workplace issues to be the very best, and this is suspect. I have spoken with former NWPE members who have joined the IEA because they realize that NWPE does not effectively lobby the Idaho State Legislature — something which is difficult for you to do while living in Spokane, Washington — and something which hardworking Idaho educators demand. Idaho educators want a professional organization with backbone, an organization that can work for them while they are hard at work in their classrooms, an organization that will not necessarily march lockstep with the Idaho GOP agenda. Professional educators don’t want a Yes Man organization representing them.

    Ms. Omlin, if you walk like a union, talk like a union, you’re a union. Don’t be afraid to take ownership for what NWPE represents: a union. Take pride in the fact that you want to help teachers have a collective voice in the workplace, that you support collective bargaining, that you support union rights, and own up to it. To do otherwise is a misrepresentation and disservice to the thousands of professional Idaho educators who pour their heart and soul into teaching every single day.

  • Cindy Omlin

    May I kindly correct Mr. Manning on some of the insinuations he made? Mr. Manning and other union leaders regularly accuse NWPE of supporting the “Luna laws” which is not true. NWPE’s members did not give a clear 75% supermajority in support or opposition to the laws on our member survey, so NWPE did not endorse or oppose the laws. Because 91% of our members supported the requirement that the local union should prove its majority every year in order to exercise the exclusive bargaining privilege, NWPE did testify in favor of this requirement. NWPE has endorsed no bills that limit collective bargaining.

    Secondly, regarding legal representation, NWPE members have personal access to our association attorney who specializes in education and employment law at the onset of workplace issues. They do not have to go through another teacher or committee so their issues remain confidential. Their NWPE liability policy also provides funds for a local attorney if they have a documented employment rights issue. While the school district and union have umbrella policies that protect the organization’s interests, NWPE membership provides an individual policy which names the member as the beneficiary, not our organization. More about NWPE’s liability and legal assistance is available on our website at

    It is true, as Mr. Manning suggests, that NWPE does not have a cadre of paid lobbyists at the statehouse. NWPE does not endorse candidates or contribute member dues to candidates, ballot issues, or other organizations advancing controversial political and social agendas. If our members indicate a desire for these activities, we could certainly raise our dues, but we have not heard an outcry for that. Our members have indicated that they prefer reasonable rates and superior professional protection and classroom support along with a voice on education issues that is based on membership surveys.

    Regarding bargaining, when a local organization affiliates with the NEA, it is not a “local only” association. The NEA requires that its local affiliates work in concert with its goals, values, and agendas. Should a local association go off the reservation, the IEA would promptly bring that local back in line. A truly “local only” bargaining association is able to negotiate without the extra cost, supervision, and influence of a national labor union. It is able to unite teachers on local issues because it does not polarize them on politics unrelated to education. With an independent “local only” bargaining association, teachers still have the individual choice to join the IEA or NWPE (or both) while utilizing other resources and experts for assistance with negotiations.

    Lastly, to reiterate to Mr. Manning and others, NWPE was formed specifically to be an alternative to a union. Serving educators and being involved in education are not synonymous with a teachers union as some like Mr. Manning seem to think. There are a plethora of education associations that serve educators that are not unions, NWPE being one of them. Unionism is specifically related to the function of negotiating collective bargaining agreements. NWPE could not bargain and would not bargain even if a majority of the teachers in a district were NWPE members. That is not a service that NWPE is able to or wants to provide as we are purposefully structured as a 501(c)(6) professional association, not a 501(c)(5) labor organization.

  • Caren Hardy

    I’ve said it before and will say it again…We CANNOT allow organizations to make decisions about how our teachers and administrators operate when many of the practices and policies they advocate for are poison and a threat the to collaborative culture and professional practices that must be present for a school/district to be effective for all learners (adults & kids).

    Associations that put their own self-interest and selfish, self-preserving practices and special interests above the needs of a healthy culture, practices and relationships do not care about quality education, students or education professionals. It is clear, when you compare union practices and contract demands with characteristics and practices of high-performing learning communities, they do NOT correlate.

  • Brenda Miller

    Thanks for keeping the dialogue open. Part of what makes academic success possible for all kids is school choice. Education professionals deserve to be fully informed about all of the choices they have with regards to professional organizations that provide support and legal services. There is no question that effective teachers make students successful. Thanks NWPE for supporting excellence in education teachers as professionals and school choice for families.

  • Charity Smith

    I stand behind this legislation because it supports teachers who deserve a choice. Teachers should not only view themselves but be viewed as professionals. It is fabulous that NWPE is elevating the profession and standing behind teachers as they put students first.

  • Kevin S. Wilson

    For the record, Ms. Smith is Membership Director of Association of American Educators-Utah, whose responsibilities for that organization include “recruiting and retaining new members in Utah, establishing AAE roots in the state, connecting with education leaders, and promoting the NON-UNION OPTIONS [emphasis added] among the many stakeholders in Utah.”

    NWPE is listed as a state chapter and partner of AAE on the association’s web site:

    C’mon, folks. Is it really asking too much for you all to exhibit a modicum of intellectual honesty by identifying yourself as employees of and partners with the organizations you come here to tout?

  • Kevin S. Wilson

    “Ms. Annette Lutes, an NWPE member and 8-12th grade special education teacher at Black Canyon High School, has been awarded a $200 classroom grant from Northwest Professional Educators. Mrs. Brenda Miller, an NWPE representative, presented the grant at a school staff meeting.”

    I presume that this is the same Brenda Miller touting the benefits of NWPE. Why is a representative of NWPE praising NWPE here without revealing her affiliation with that organization?

    See also:

  • Laurynda Williams

    By using the misleading term “right to work” in her statement, Ms. Omlin has shown her true colors. Teachers need unions so that they can have some strength in their negotiations with their districts. The way the Idaho Legislature ignored the very clear vote that rejected the Luna Laws and then went about reinstating them anyway, is a cause for alarm. 1,2 and 3 were all masked as education reform, but were one of them was clearly a union-busting bill. I hope the voters will remember when these legislators are up for re-election in 2014.
    I would like to see the IEA and NEA given a soundboard for their views on this site as well. This is a biased advertisement for the NPE. If teachers were protected by their employers, they would not need additional liability insurance. I am not a teacher, just a concerned parent and taxpayer, that happens to be concerned about the future of education in our nation and state.

  • sharon fisher

    NWPE may or may not have “a cadre of paid lobbyists at the statehouse,” but they certainly seem to have plenty who write op-eds and then applaud them.