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Teachers would be free to choose whether to pay union dues, rather than having school districts handle that process before the teacher receives his or her paycheck, under a bill approved by a Senate committee.

Senate Bill 1625, by state Sen. Ally Seifried, would end the practice of schools handling union-dues payments and instead leave it up to teachers to personally pay dues.

“This is no longer needed,” said Seifried, R-Claremore.

She noted that most people routinely pay bills on a monthly basis without having their employer handle that process for them through withholding.

“We pay for all of our things on a monthly (basis) with our credit card,” Seifried said. “I know that several professional organizations have already moved this way.”

State Sen. Carri Hicks, an Oklahoma City Democrat who was previously a teacher-union member and leader in her local district, opposed the bill.

“We’ve already put so many hoops for teachers to have to jump through just to be able to be a member of these organizations and this is a continued effort to do away with them,” Hicks said.

She claimed that if teachers must pay union dues on their own, the learning environment for children will deteriorate.

“I’m concerned about what the deterioration and declining environment will be for our children’s learning,” Hicks said.

State Sen. Jo Anna Dossett, a Tulsa Democrat and former teacher, also opposed the bill, saying teachers “do not need this additional help.”

But another teacher-turned-legislator, state Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, urged his colleagues to support the measure.

“As somebody that spent more than 20 years in the classroom, I’m very much in support of this bill,” said Bergstrom, R-Adair. “I think that if a teacher is capable and intelligent enough to work in that classroom and deal with the children, then that same individual is quite capable of making sure that their money is going for either professional dues or political contributions where they want them to go.”

SB 1625 passed the Senate Education Committee on an 11-2 vote that broke along party lines with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed. The bill now proceeds to the floor of the Oklahoma Senate.

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