STATE PROFILE: Indiana Senate Passes Legislation to Safeguard Teacher Paychecks

Indiana state senators are leading the way, joining lawmakers from approximately ten other states who are taking steps this spring to protect the First Amendment rights of teachers – who comprise the vast majority of public employees nationwide.

Last week, Indiana state senators moved forward with legislation (SB 251 –authored by Sen. Phil Boots) that would bring their state into compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME. This decision restored First Amendment rights to teachers and other public employees by clarifying that union dues or fees can only be withdrawn from paychecks after employees are informed of their rights and are regularly given the opportunity to determine whether they want those funds withheld from future paychecks.

Among those supporting the legislation in Indiana is Indiana Professional Educators, Inc. (IPE), which provides an alternative support association for professional, independent school educators in Indiana and “supports effective teachers and staff in their passion to provide the best education possible in the best environment possible for our students.” The Association of American Educators (AAE) has also supported state compliance with the Janus decision to protect teachers’ rights.

In addition to Indiana, Florida, Oklahoma, and Missouri have similar legislation that’s already moving through their house and senate chambers. Other states have legislation filed and are poised to move it forward in the coming weeks as well.

Simply put, these state efforts would ask public employers to:

  1. Regularly inform teachers of their constitutional right to join and pay a union, or choose not to do so, without jeopardizing their jobs or benefits
  2. Confirm directly with teachers that they acknowledge these rights and allow them to routinely consent to future withdrawals of union dues from their paychecks

Besides protecting teachers’ First Amendment rights, this is just good bookkeeping. No money should come out of someone’s paycheck unless they regularly consent to it after being informed of their rights.

Under Janus, this process is the minimum states should be doing to ensure that their teachers’ wishes are valued, recognized and respected – especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has increasingly placed teachers in crosshairs of personal decision-making and broader debates about public education policies.

Indeed, Indiana’s process is specially designed to require minimal effort for state employers by giving them some flexibility on when and how to notify teachers of their rights, as well as allowing them ample time prior to the next pay period for the reflection of any changes teachers might request.

Workers for Opportunity applauds these states for their efforts to protect teachers’ rights and encourages Indiana state representatives to continue moving the legislation forward

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