Forbes magazine's Peter Brimelow has called teachers unions "the worm in the apple." It takes an early bird to get the better of that worm; teachers who want to drop their union affiliation often have a limited window of opportunity to do so-usually a short period at the start of the school year.
Twenty-two states have "right-to-work" laws prohibiting unions from requiring nonmember teachers to pay fees for unsought representation. In the remaining 28 states, teachers cannot be required to join the union, but they may be required to pay their "fair share" for the union's ostensible representation of them at the bargaining table. Called an "agency fee" or "reduced fee," this charge to nonmember teachers must be less than the full dues, but often approaches that amount-usually several hundred dollars.
National Right to Work (NRTW), a group opposed to forced unionism, recommends teachers wishing to leave their union send a letter of resignation to the union and to their school district's payroll department. In most places, teachers must repeat this process annually. NRTW hears frequently from teachers who encounter hassles along the way, according to Dan Cronin, a spokesman for the group.
NRTW provides more specific guidance to teachers with religious objections to union activities, who may have grounds for paying their "fair share" to a charity rather than the union. But, as union expert Charlene Haar of the Education Policy Institute observes, even then union veto power may affect the choice of charities.