In win for Indiana teachers unions, federal judge temporarily blocks new state law

A federal judge has temporarily blocked a new state law, set to take effect Thursday, that Indiana teachers unions say unfairly targets teachers and makes it harder for unions to collect dues.

The local unions representing Anderson, Avon and Martinsville school districts and the teachers that lead them filed a lawsuit two weeks ago in Indiana's federal Southern District court challenging Senate Enrolled Act 251. The law would set out a new process for the collection of teachers union dues, requiring teachers to annually complete a three-step process to have union dues deducted from their paychecks.

U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday based on teachers' claims that the law violated their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and that it impairs existing contractual agreements between school corporations, which have agreements to withdraw dues from teachers paychecks, and their teachers and unions. Barker rejected a third claim, that the law violated their First Amendment rights to freedom of association.

Previously: Teachers unions are trying to block a new state law they say is 'punishment' for activism

The lawsuit names Attorney General Todd Rokita, Secretary of Education Katie Jenner and Tammy Meyer, chair of the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board, as defendants.

In a statement emailed to IndyStar at the time the lawsuit was filed, Rokita said he would "stand up to protect the individual liberties of hard-working Hoosiers."

The bill's author, Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, called it a "teachers' rights bill." But teachers' unions say it creates an onerous new process for collecting dues that unfairly targets teachers.

Teachers and protesters hold signs during the Red for Ed Action Day rally at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019.

Instead of signing a form and turning it into the union officers, the new law would require each teacher to sign a form created by the office of the attorney general. That form would have to be submitted to the school district, and central office staff would have to email each teacher to confirm the receipt of the form. Teachers would then have to reply back, reaffirming their wish to have their dues deducted.

Previously, the union sent a list of all teachers who had signed up to the district.

The temporary injunction granted Wednesday prevents the state from enforcing the law to terminate any existing dues deduction withholding agreements until after the final pay period of the 2020-21 school year, which would be August for most districts, and blocks the state from enforcing the law on any new agreements until a final ruling.

Call IndyStar education reporter Arika Herron at 317-201-5620 or email her at Follow her on Twitter: @ArikaHerron.