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Why I’m Leaving My California Teachers’ Union Over Critical Race Theory

Beth Richardson, RealClearEducation

For 18 years, I’ve been teaching middle school special education. Every day I spend in the classroom is a joy – the work is hard, but so rewarding – and with almost two decades of experience, I know how my students learn best.

Imagine my surprise when the California Teachers Association – which spends zero days per year with students – tries to tell teachers how to run their classrooms.

Like many teachers across the state, I have watched nervously as schools begin to adopt curriculums that include Critical Race Theory – a concept I believe would do incredible harm to our children and our country, as it requires every lesson we teach to be presented and understood through the lens of race. Although my school has not yet adopted this theory that is unproven, it’s something I worry about.

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Adopting CRT certainly seems to be the direction our state union is taking, following the lead of the National Education Association, which recently announced that it will promote the theory and actively push back against anything it sees as “anti-CRT rhetoric.”

We’re already seeing how these kinds of ideas can creep into the classroom and harm student education. Some educators in my state are pushing to redefine math, taking the focus off of the “right answer” because pointing out a wrong answer is supposedly a form of white supremacy.

What good is teaching if we cannot tell the difference between incorrect and correct? 

I’ve been a dues-paying union member for about three years, and while I frequently disagreed with the political direction of my union, I maintained my membership because I thought it necessary to keep my benefits.

The last straw is this desperate push for critical racism theory and forcing teachers to accept it, regardless of our beliefs. I would accept being told who to vote for. I would be willing to pay for subpar legal representation.

It is not acceptable for me to be told what I should teach by someone who has never been in my classroom.

So I’m leaving my union. Or at least I’m trying to leave. Despite the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus, which states that collecting union dues from non-members is a violation of the First Amendment, my request to leave the union was met with: “Sorry, try again.”

Following my request for me to be removed from my CTA membership, I was sent a CTA letter informing me I had to continue paying my dues. “While you may drop your membership through your local,” the letter says, “the agreement to pay dues continues… regardless of membership status.”

Indeed, a teacher can only “revoke [their] dues authorization by sending written notice… not less than thirty (30) days and not more than sixty (60) days before the annual anniversary date of the agreement.”

For a whole year, I must continue to pay my dues to an organisation I do not support. Next time I’ll make sure my political breaking point lines up with the union’s arbitrary 30-day period.

I’m not alone in this battle with the union – at least eight other teachers in my district are trying to leave, for various reasons. These teachers, who also missed the 30-day deadline, are financially supported by a radical political platform and remain in their district for an additional year.

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My role as the teacher in my class should be to make decisions about what I am teaching. All my students should succeed, and be able to live a fulfilled and purposeful life. This future is at risk because CRT replaces equal opportunities in school with a curriculum which pits different groups against each other.

I feel that it’s my responsibility to stand up for my students. The day I’m told that I have to change my curriculum is the day I’ll retire. Until then, I’d rather not be compelled to give part of my paycheck to an organization that puts its political agenda above the education of America’s kids. 

RealClearWire granted permission to syndicate.

Beth Richardson, a teacher of special education in middle schools in San Diego, California is Beth.

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