Unionists Freaking Out Over Bill To Take Teacher Of The Year Award Away
The North Dakota Teacher of the Year award is actually awarded by the state through the Department of Public Instruction. But (inappropriately, to my mind) the award is actually given out at the annual conference of the state teachers union put on by the North Dakota Education Association.
Back in 2008 the NDEA played politics with the award because that year’s winner, Bismarck teacher Beth Ekre, wasn’t a member of the union. She got her award, but was denied access to the award reception.
Now Republican Rep. Bob Martinson is an amendment to the Department of Public Instruction’s budget that would remove the award from the NDEA and instead hand it out in a political neutral setting such as the state capitol or at the teacher’s school. But, apparently with absolutely no sense of irony, the NDEA is crying foul saying that because the legislation was called for by the North Dakota School Boards Association, which is headed by Rep. Martinson’s brother John, there’s a conflict of interest.
…the problem according to NDEA executive director Greg Burns isn’t the bill going into conference committee but rather DPI’s budget, Senate Bill 2013.
Rep. Bob Martinson, R-Bismarck, introduced an amendment to the budget that would have required the teacher of the year to be recognized in the Capitol or the teacher’s hometown. The two Martinsons are brothers.
Burns called the situation a conflict of interest.
“It’s just a stunning thing to do when this is already scheduled for a House and Senate conference committee,” Burns said. “It’s not illegal, it’s just a clear conflict of interest.”
There is nothing in state statute that bars lobbyists from lobbying their relatives, and the two bothers said they’ve done nothing wrong.
“Is it a conflict of interest that I have a brother that supports the same thing I support?” Bob Martinson asked, adding that his brother did not pressure him into introducing the amendment, which was removed from the bill during Monday’s House floor session.
It’s not clear to me why Martinson put this amendment in. As the article notes, it was removed by the House before passing the overall budget for DPI, but SB2311 which wasn’t sponsored by Martinson is in conference committee and the Senate version of that bill calls for the awards ceremony to be at the capitol or at the teacher’s home.
The NDEA is still defending their decision to give Ekre the boot. They said Ekre couldn’t attend because she doesn’t pay dues. “We tell politicians it’s like a fundraiser. People don’t get in unless they pay,” said NDEA executive director Greg Burns.
The fact that the annual event is a fundraiser for a very political organization is exactly this state-sponsored award shouldn’t be given there. Awarding it at a union event give the impression that teachers must be members of the union to receive the award. After all, look at how the non-union winner was treated.
The NDEA is a special interest group, and perhaps the most ardent proponent of liberalism in North Dakota. The award should be handed out somewhere neutral.Tags: beth ekre, bob martinson, john martinson, ndea, North Dakota News