By Ben Velderman

PORTLAND, Maine – Is “marriage equality” one of the most pressing educational issues facing Maine’s school children?

The Maine Education Association certainly thinks so.

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According to the teacher union’s website, 120 MEA delegates recently voted on its 2012-13 agenda, which includes supporting Maine’s same-sex marriage proposal that will appear on the November ballot.

When Maine citizens last voted on the issue in November 2009, 53 percent voted to repeal a same-sex marriage law that had been passed by the state legislature, reports the Bangor Daily News.

This time around, the MEA will lend its political muscle to help the measure pass, though some are asking why the teachers union would take a position on an issue that has no connection to student learning.

“This announcement is an example of what the union is choosing to focus on rather than expanding and enhancing opportunities for teacher development,” said Republican Gov. Paul LePage, according to the Portland Daily Sun.

Others speculated that the MEA’s far-left political agenda is being foisted upon members against their will.

“My question is: How this is germane to their educational mission?” asked Carroll Conley, head of the Christian Civic League of Maine, according to the Daily News. “I’d like to see if they polled their membership because you’ll never convince me this represents the rank and file teachers in the MEA.”

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Conley’s right – the political views of union leaders probably don’t match the views of many of the MEA’s 24,000 members.

A 2005 membership survey by the National Education Association – MEA’s parent union – found that 50 percent of union members self-identify as “conservative” while 43 percent say they are “liberal.”

Teacher unions that take official positions on hot-button issues such as gay marriage are alienating at least half of their members. But teacher union leaders – who are typically far-left activists – don’t care.

Educators in non-right to work states such as Maine are forced to pay union dues, even though their union often doesn’t represent their best interests (i.e. “last in, first out” layoff policies) or their political beliefs. Regardless, union bosses use the average teacher’s dues dollars to advance their personal and political agendas. Essentially, it’s a legalized form of theft, though union bosses usually attempt to pass off their radical positions as being in the best interests “of the children.”

But sometimes union bosses get overly bold and drop the pretense altogether, as the MEA’s pro-gay marriage announcement proves.

It’s already been well-established that teacher unions act as impediments to meaningful education reform, which means they’re working against the best interests of children. And if they don’t even represent their members’ interests or political views, it makes us wonder why teacher unions exist at all.