Y2K: NEA Membership Numbers Essentially the Same – 15 Years Later

July 27, 2015

Y2K: NEA Membership Numbers Essentially the Same – 15 Years Later. The National Education Association has unwittingly demonstrated the limitations of standardized tests. Let’s use a word problem such as we have seen a million times before: If NEA had 2,524,532 members in 1999-2000, and 2,956,532 members in 2013-14, how many more members does NEA have today?

If you said 432,000, you are good at arithmetic but lacking in knowledge about teachers’ unions. The correct answer is: maybe about 5,000 – give or take a few hundred.

How can this be? As I hinted this morning on Intercepts, the national union’s membership growth is almost entirely due to counting American Federation of Teachers members in merged state affiliates, a process NEA began in 1999. This might be acceptable if AFT weren’t also counting the same members in their totals. Even that might be acceptable if those states were paying double dues. But, as was amply demonstrated at this year’s NEA Representative Assembly, their dues and representation on NEA’s elected bodies are proportional to their pre-merger numbers.

At the time of their respective mergers, AFT members in Minnesota (~22,500), Florida (~51,000), Montana (~2,100), New York (~350,000) and North Dakota (~1,400) instantly became NEA members, though they counted toward membership totals and little else. They constitute a fixed number of 427,000 paper members, resulting in an NEA that is virtually the same size as it was in 1999-2000.

We even have mathematical corroboration. In 1999-2000, according to NEA’s financial disclosure reports, the union took in $221,985,292 in dues revenue. In 2013-14, it took in $362,987,725 – an increase in income of 63.5 percent.

But when we take a weighted average of the increase in the NEA dues rate on teachers and education support employees, we find it went up a cumulative 63.0 percent – almost entirely accounting for the extra revenue. In other words, essentially all of NEA’s additional money came from charging existing members more – not by recruiting new education employees.

And there have been a lot of them. In the last 15 years, America’s public education system hired an additional 276,000 teachers and almost as many education support employees. From a pool of perhaps a half-million possible members, NEA added no more than 5,000. I guess you could call them the one-percenters.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 21-27:

How to Grow NEA Membership. Double count.

You Get What You Pay For. Quid pro quo.

Alameda School Board Cuts Out the Middle Man. A year in the making.

Rhetorical Question. No, no, we can’t have that.

Defenestration. Should I throw Windows out of a window?

Quote of the Week. “So what’s behind the bump? NEA President Lily Eskelsen García boiled it down to three words: “Organize, organize, organize,” she told Morning Education. “It doesn’t just happen.” Jim Testerman, NEA’s senior director for organizing, said it comes after listening to members and organizing on issues that concern them, like testing and reducing class sizes…. One caveat: The membership numbers aren’t final, Testerman said. NEA affiliates have a few months to clean up their lists while some members retire or resign. More concrete numbers will be available in the fall, he said.” – from a July 8 Politico item headlined “NEA’s Membership Uptick.”