‘I’ve Never Thought About Not Belonging’

Janet Sheaffer has never thought about not belonging to NSEA.

So, when a vendor for the Association of American Educators reached out at a recent curriculum conference and said he had been a member of the NEA affiliate in another state, “but it was just too expensive,” Sheaffer made it clear she was not interested.

“Their big sell was that it was cheaper,” said Sheaffer. “But I’ve never thought about not being a member of NSEA — NSEA is my professional organization.”

Sheaffer welcomes the multi-faceted benefits NSEA delivers. Those services range from bargaining support to professional and leadership development to member rights aid and member discounts. Educators won’t get that combination of services elsewhere.

“I appreciate that the  Association is doing all sorts of professional development,” said Sheaffer.  Further, she said, “Whenever our members are concerned about anything, or need information, NSEA has always been able to help.”

Sheaffer has been with NSEA since she began teaching science for the Chase County Public Schools in Imperial 30 years ago. Before that, she belonged to NSEA’s sister affiliate in Kansas.

“NSEA is about what is best for making teachers better teachers, and helping kids learn,” she said. “It’s not just about teachers; it’s also about the kids.”

When Sheaffer encountered the AAE vendor, she was also told “our association has the insurance, but we’re not as expensive.”

To quote an old proverb, “you get what you pay for.”

With such alternative associations you don’t get much for your money. For starters, you’ll get no assistance when it comes to determining your salary, benefits, extra duty pay, or other issues related to bargaining. Nor will you get assistance in negotiating working conditions. Educators know that working conditions are the same conditions in which students learn.

In fact,  AAE members will get no bargaining assistance at all. The website states clearly that “AAE does not engage in collective bargaining. We believe that collective bargaining focuses on what’s best for adults, not necessarily students.”

The reality is that collective bargaining is good for students. For instance, as a result of bargained agreements, some Nebraska school districts have a class size appeal process. If a teacher is assigned 39 students in a biology lab, the teacher can appeal to have the class size reduced, or have additional teaching help acquired.

In another example, NSEA provides sample contract language regarding classroom safety.  The language obligates the school district to provide a safe working environment and has been adopted in many locals. Some local associations negotiate agreements in districts with dual credit class offerings, with the contract designating a share of income from higher education institutions for those classes to student scholarships.

Bargaining improved salaries gives teachers financial peace of mind and necessitates fewer hours at those second (and third) jobs. Financial security also affects job performance.

Sheaffer said many think NSEA membership is “for when you are in trouble.” While there is no more important measure than protecting your most important financial asset — your job — membership is about much more than liability insurance.

NSEA will assist when members are crosswise with an administrator. NSEA’s 18 organizational specialists – one assigned to every school district in Nebraska – know your local leadership team, your administrators and your contract. They answer questions you and your colleagues may have about evaluations, teaching certificates, Department of Education rules and so much more.

No other group offers on-the-ground staff with that knowledge and those connections – benefits working in your favor each day.

So when approached by someone selling cheap, second-rate association membership, know the facts and put your cash on quality.

“The more involved I become, the more I get out of it,” said Sheaffer.  “I can’t imagine not being a member.”