Unions Have Cash But Not Partners In Fight Against MA Charter Proposal

September 14, 2016

Unions Have Cash But Not Partners In Fight Against MA Charter Proposal. Save Our Public Schools, the Massachusetts campaign fighting to retain the state’s cap on charter schools, describes itself as “a grassroots organization of families, parents, educators and students.”

But a glance at its campaign finance disclosure shows it to be almost devoid of families, parents, and students, and includes educators only to the extent that their dues money is being spent by the teachers union they belong to.

Of the more than $7.2 million in cash and in-kind contributions received by Save Our Public Schools so far, 99.86 percent came from the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and their affiliates. But even that percentage is slightly misleading.

The largest donor to the campaign outside of the teachers’ unions is Jobs With Justice, an organization that advocates for workers’ rights. It made $8,000 in in-kind contributions of staff and facilities. But Jobs With Justice is on the campaign payroll, having received $90,000 for staff salaries.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association is the largest single contributor, with almost $4.6 million in contributions so far. That is only half of what MTA has allocated for the campaign and it is possible that the union’s representative bodies could authorize an even larger dip into MTA reserves. The state union’s net assets total about $8.4 million.

NEA chipped in $1.9 million. It is highly likely that MTA will solicit additional funds from NEA, but unclear whether the national union will pledge the additional millions desired.

AFT national, based in Washington, D.C., gave $450,000; its Massachusetts affiliate gave $275,000 and its Boston local affiliate another $41,000.

A separate affiliate, the Massachusetts Library Staff Association, added $1,000.

Other unions seem reluctant to step to the plate, however. Only a United Food and Commercial Workers local ($500) and the Boston Carmen’s Union ($300) have contributed.

The various committees supporting the removal of the charter cap have raised twice as much — hardly surprising given the very few contributions on the “No” side from anyone other than teachers’ unions.

The NEA and AFT and their affiliates may decry the amount of cash available to supporters of charter expansion, but the question remains: Why are their deep-pocketed allies in labor and the business world choosing not to sign big checks for this fight? Perhaps the teachers’ unions picked the wrong spot to draw a line in the sand.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 9-13:

* We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Table. Who’s the educator in Hillary’s K-12 policy working group?

* NEA’s Ballot Fund Being Brought to Bear in States. With more to come.

* Madeloni’s Non-Job Could Soon Be at Non-Workplace. Prestigious labor center can’t draw students or make money.

Quote of the Week. “I had left teaching after a 37-year career as both a librarian and teacher and then President of the Virginia Education Association. In the spring of 2012, I realized that I was too exhausted to want to go back to the classroom. I was on schedule to return to a middle school English teaching position. Every time I thought about it, I just wanted to cry. I knew that I no longer had the physical stamina to teach a full day every day. I was pretty sure I wasn’t prepared to deal with hormonal middle-schoolers again. I had tried that when I was young, and it was hard then. I hadn’t taught English since 1980…long before standards and testing and accountability measures ever took over teachers’ lives. And I was sure that the middle-schoolers of today are different from the 6th graders I taught from 1977-1980…so I was in trouble.” – Kitty Boitnott, former president of the Virginia Education Association, now a career transition coach.