Why Rep Council is Worth Saving

Most of the criticisms against the proposed DCTA Bylaws amendments have focused on restricting members from pursuing elected offices.  However, there is another major change that should be just as concerning: diminishing the importance of Rep Council.

The proposed bylaws changes establish new procedures that allow the Board of Directors to take over the policy-making duties of Rep Council when a quorum isn't present at our monthly membership meetings. Under Article 6, Section 2, the bylaws committee has proposed adding the following language: “When a quorum is not present at the Representative Council, recommendations affecting Association policies will be referred to the Board of Directors.”

DCTA's elected leaders have presented these changes as necessary to bring us in line with our current practices, and that does make sense. After all, when was the last time Rep Council had a quorum and conducted any sort of official business?

However, we should question whether or not our current practices are really best practices.

The True Role of Reps

Reps should not merely be people who handle the occasional corrective action meeting or disseminate information to people in their building. DCTA Representatives are to our union what U.S. Representatives are to Congress.  As our bylaws state, "The Representative Council shall be the official legislative body of the Association and shall be composed of Association Representatives and members of the Board of Directors."

Reps should be excited to engage in discussions and put forth motions on behalf of their building's members. However, low attendance and the requirement of a quorum to conduct business has mostly prevented this for several years now.

A lot of the blame in the decline of Rep Council should fall upon the politicians and private entities that have worked to strip away due process from some teachers while keeping the rest on their toes. Our members are constantly asked to do more with less – and that makes it difficult to attend meetings and get involved in our union.

The proposed bylaws amendments are proof that DCTA leaders are giving up hope in restoring Rep Council into the democratic body it was intended to be.

We must ask more of our elected officials.  It is easy to create workarounds to address low turnout and participation, but it is much harder to change the way we operate and make room for members to participate.

Moving Past Service Unionism

Rep Council meetings have slowly devolved into informational seminars where our elected officials and DCTA staff present information to the membership that they deem important. At these meetings, we often discuss the latest threats of education reform and how we can go back into our individual schools and fight for our members' rights. It's a noble cause, but it's just another example of the top-down service model unionism that DCTA claims to be moving away from.

Perhaps attendance at Rep Council would be higher if there were more opportunities for members to participate. With the exception of an underwhelming discussion about opt-out two years ago, when have Reps had the opportunity to sound off about the issues that impact them everyday?

Sure, there has been the occasional DPS official who comes to hear teachers' concerns about the latest-and-greatest trend, like SLOs, but when do the membership get to bring forward their own vision for our students?

Imagine if our Reps could shape the direction of our union and forge DCTA's positions on class sizes, testing, co-location, and more. This is how our democratic organization was intended to function. It is not an antiquated idea that we should abandon.

Democracy is often messy and contentious, but as Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

What are DCTA leaders afraid of?

Tommie Shimrock, a special educator from Henry World Middle School in Southwest Denver recently spoke out via his Facebook page about how proposed changes to the DCTA bylaws will hurt the democratic nature of our union.

In the video (featured below), Shimrock claims that he recently had a conversation with DCTA President Henry Roman about the possibility of Shimrock running for the union's presidency.  Shortly thereafter, DCTA leadership proposed all new restrictions that would conveniently prevent Roman from facing the opposition.

The proposed bylaw changes would require that members hold non-probationary status and complete a full term on DCTA's Board of Directors before being eligible for the positions of President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer.  These restrictions would narrow the number of candidates to a tiny fraction of DCTA's membership.

These changes not only value board-room experience over classroom experience, but they completely prohibit members at many innovation schools and SSPs hired after 2007 from EVER holding an executive office.  The proposed bylaws also extend the terms of officers and allow the Board of Directors to act in place of Rep Council whenever a quorum is not present.

It's no surprise that these bylaw amendments came from a four-person committee that was composed of two executive officers and one DCTA board member who was appointed by Roman.

Please Vote NO on these blatantly undemocratic bylaws proposals.

The Caucus of Today's Teachers believes that all DCTA members should be encouraged to be active in our union - and that includes formal leadership roles.  There is no need to regulate our democracy.  Let our members decide for themselves who is ready to fight for the schools our students deserve.