Superintendent condemns practice; GOP lawyer says it's illegal
The Rockford Education Association union says it rewards teachers who give money to support political candidates with "personal days off," a practice the superintendent of the west Michigan school district said he would "never, ever condone" and was not something the district would approve.
Eric Doster, general counsel for the state Republican Party, said it would be an illegal political contribution if the union was giving its personal days to teachers in return for political contributions.
The practice was mentioned in the REA's May 14 meeting minutes.* In a section in the minutes about the need for a political action committee chairperson, the minutes state that dues money collected from teachers can only be used for issues related to education and not political candidates. They also stated that Rockford had a low rate of participation in contributing to political action committees (PACs), which are used to financially support political candidates.
"This person would be responsible for motivating people, collecting contributions and sending them in," the meeting minutes read. "This chairperson could still offer incentives like personal days."
REA Union President Suzy Clements said the chairperson would be allowed to use the personal days that are in the teacher's union contract and are allowed to be used for union business. Clements said the union has been doing this for 20 years and compared the awarding of personal days to teachers who contribute to political action committees as "a prize."
Rockford Superintendent Michael Shibler said the school district does not financially compensate union officers for their union related responsibilities. He said the district does not compensate or provide any incentive to union members for any union political activity and the union does not approve personal business days for union activities.
"I would never, ever condone that," Shibler said in an email. "It is inappropriate and not something I would support."
Shibler said the contract allows for 18 days allocated for union leaders, such as the union president, to conduct administratively approved business such as negotiations and meetings.
The Secretary of State's office said it wouldn't comment on the matter other than to investigate if it received a formal complaint.
*Editor's Note: The union appears to have removed the minutes from its website. The link above is to a saved version of those meeting minutes.