Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed the Executive Director & CEO of Professional Educators of Tennessee, J.C. Bowman in-studio to discuss the difference between his organization and standard teachers’ unions.
Leahy: In-studio, our very good friend J. C. Bowman, J.C. is the president of Professional Educators of Tennessee. A job that you’ve held what, for 11 years now, right?
Bowman: Yes, sir.
Leahy: You are a native Tennessean?
Bowman: I am.
Leahy: You’ve been involved in education and education policy your entire career. But before that you were a Marine. Semper Fi.
Bowman: Semper Fi.
Leahy: Now tell us, what’s the difference between Professional Educators of Tennessee and the teachers’ union here? It’s a version of the National Education Association, local chapters. What’s the difference? What do you do? What do the teachers’ unions do?
Bowman: Well, you notice they don’t embrace the national very much. They don’t talk about it.
Leahy: They’re a chapter of the national.
Bowman: They are. They are indeed a chapter. Well, let me break it down in four areas. Unified dues. When you’re a member of the local union, you’re a member of the state union and you’re a member of the National Union and our association.
You can only be state-only. So we’re professional, educated, we’re nonpartisan. The union is very aggressive partisanship. They engage in aggressive political partisanship, promote wide-ranging social agendas on issues unrelated to education.
Leahy: Yes. They’re Woke warriors, basically.
Bowman: A lot of them surely are. And militant and adversarial. I mean, we’ve seen that before and then finally they have a top-down structure, whereas in our thing we don’t believe in strikes.
Leahy: Now let’s set the stage for in terms of the total number of teachers here in Tennessee, there are what? 50,000 teachers?
Bowman: 80,000. Including everything. We’ve got coaches, instructions, librarians.
Leahy: 80,000 K through 12 public school teachers roughly in the state of Tennessee. How many of them are members of the union? How many of them are members of Professional Educators of Tennessee?
Bowman: We have 8,000 and they have about 24,000. About a decade ago they were at 58,000.
Leahy: So they’ve been plummeting in their membership. A decade ago when you took over the reins of Professional Educators of Tennessee, how many teachers were part of that organization?
Bowman: At that time there were around 1,100. So we’ve grown in the last year.
Leahy: So, you’ve grown dramatically. Now why are more teachers joining Professional Educators of Tennessee? And why are many fleeing the union?
Bowman: It’s economics? I think, number one, our dues are less than $200. Their dues are around $650 to $700. That’s one. Two, I don’t think teachers, our teachers that we’ve talked to, they appreciate that I’m not going to tell them how to vote.
So we don’t endorse political candidates and we don’t give them money. And I think that they appreciate that. When I talk to a politician or an elected official, they know that I’m telling them the truth.
I’m not going to game them and there’s no quid pro quo. If they support me, that’s great. If they don’t support me, that’s going to be fine.
But I’m not going to go out and take my members’ dues and spend money on non-educational causes and I’m not going to spend it and put it in politicians’ pockets.
Leahy: What’s your website, by the way?
Leahy: Proedtn.org. Professional Educators of Tennessee. Now, we’ve talked about the declining performance of public schools on reading, writing, arithmetic. It’s plummeting. My view is one of the reasons it’s plummeting is because the teachers’ unions are focused on the wrong things.
That’s one of my views. And they’re advocating for the teachers’ unions and for the teachers’ unions’ officials and certain political policies.
They could care less about the actual learning that the kids do. That’s sort of my view. But here’s the thing. What’s going on with the morale of teachers in this environment?
Bowman: Teachers, I would say it’s extremely low right now. And the reason is for a multitude of reasons. But number one, we change so much. We consistently change.
We move from this, we move to that curriculum, we change reading, we do this and we just constantly [have] upheaval in public schools. We don’t get with one program and stay to it. And teachers are pretty frustrated with that.
Leahy: And also it seems like teachers are getting aggravation from their administration, aggravation from parents –
Bowman: Lack of support –
Leahy: – lack of support in terms of disciplining kids. And I think we’ll talk about that after the break.
Bowman: That would be great.
To learn more about Professional Educators of Tennessee visit them on the web at Proedtn.org
Listen to the full interview:
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