1) NEA Projects No Membership Growth
in 2004-05. It may be jarring to hear a national
union that receives more than $280 million in annual dues speaking of “belt
tightening” measures, but the National Education Association is finally
taking budgetary action to address lean years in membership growth. The
union is drafting a budget for 2004-05 that projects no growth in active
members (full-time, working teachers and ESPs). Unless the picture improves,
NEA faces it first non-growth year since 1983.
While tightening its belt, NEA is also
tightening its lips on membership trends. EIA sources conflict, though no
source places active membership growth for this year higher than 14,000
nationwide. That would be an average growth per state of only 280 members.
The last budget submitted by then-NEA
Secretary-Treasurer Dennis Van Roekel projected active membership growth for
2003-04 of 9,000 members, but when the budget was revised by new
Secretary-Treasurer Lily Eskelsen last year, the projection was increased to
24,000 new active members. EIA reported at the time that this revision
appeared to signal a “triumph of hope over experience” and that “NEA appears
to be unexpectedly bullish in a bear market for teacher union members.” (See
July 2, 2003 EIA Communiqué)
There are many reasons for the decline.
Slowing enrollment growth, tighter state education budgets, the overselling
of the “teacher shortage,” the NEA-AFT no-raid agreement, and the union’s
inability to gain any real traction in Southern states. At the same time,
the union’s own labor costs continue to rise, with staff pension funds
leading the list of management’s concerns.
Very few NEA officers and staff were
around during the last set of lean years. How well they adapt will determine
the organization’s future health.
2) AFT Proposes New Audit
Requirements. In response to financial scandals in
DC and Miami, the American Federation of Teachers executive council approved
several proposed constitutional amendments to tighten oversight of local
affiliate money management. The new measures would require AFT locals of
more than 1,000 members to commission annual independent audits and make
them available to members. If the audits are not submitted to AFT within six
months, the national union itself will conduct an audit at the local’s
expense. Another amendment will increase the consequences should a local
affiliate persistently fail to pay its national dues.
These amendments – particularly the one
allowing the scrutiny of rank-and-file members – are commendable attempts to
forestall further misappropriation of dues. Another amendment doesn’t pass
the smell test. It allows AFT’s executive officers to appoint “an emergency
administrator” over a local affiliate, provided a two-thirds vote of the
executive council sanctions the takeover within five days.
This measure places way too much power
in the hands of AFT’s national officers, who will have five days “for the
purpose of securing and safeguarding an affiliate’s assets and vital records
from immediate threat” without any authorization at all from the council or
anyone else. EIA hasn’t yet had time to canvass opinion from AFT local
affiliate officers on this idea, but expect significant resistance when it
comes to debate and vote at the AFT Convention in July.
3) Secretary Paige Calls NEA
“Terrorist Organization.” The Associated Press
reported this afternoon that U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige called
NEA “a terrorist organization” in a private meeting with several governors.
Paige later apologized for his remarks.
If he had planned to say the stupidest
possible thing when he entered the room, Paige could not have chosen better
words. Not only was it wrong, inaccurate and an inexcusable application of
the adjective “terrorist,” but it enabled his political opponents to recast
his slur as an assault on teachers. “We are the teachers, there is no
distinction,” said NEA President Reg Weaver. Democratic National Committee
Chairman Terry McAuliffe accused Paige of “hate speech, comparing those who
teach America’s children to terrorists.”
Secretary Paige and, by association,
President Bush, will take a justified rhetorical beating from NEA and the
Democrats from now until Election Day over this. In referring to the union
that way, Paige tossed the pin and held on to the hand grenade. Whatever
damage he sustains is self-induced and well-deserved.
4) Substantial Dues Hikes on the
Agenda in More NEA Affiliates. As NEA’s active
membership growth sputters, the union’s state affiliates are making more
demands of those already organized. Hawaii, Nebraska and Michigan are three
more state affiliates with proposals to increase dues well beyond the $3
increase already planned for national dues.
Delegates to the Hawaii State Teachers
Association convention will vote on a proposal to increase state dues by
$33.57. The Nebraska State Education Association board of directors approved
a goal to hold its dues increase to no more than $14. And the Michigan
Education Association (MEA), a year after a record $111.90 annual increase,
is budgeting for another increase of $13.40, while promising members that
additional program and staff cuts may be necessary.
MEA is budgeting for 112,000 full-time
equivalent members in 2004-05, which suggests a poor membership year or a
large number of ESP members, or both. The union is expected to make cuts in
most program categories, except “external public relations and internal
communications” and “organizational business costs.”
5) Howard’s End.
The California Teachers Association (CTA) and the American
Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) were two unions
that backed Howard Dean in his quest for the Democratic presidential
nomination. But when Dean withdrew from the race, their reactions could not
have been more different.
CTA stuck to its guns, calling Dean “the
only candidate who made education a centerpiece of his campaign,” and saying
it will “encourage everyone who supported Governor Dean to cast their vote
for him in the California primary on March 2.”
AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee was
less sanguine about Dean, bluntly telling the New York Times, “I
think he’s nuts.”
6) Cleveland Union Officer Responds.
Cleveland Teachers Union (CTU) presidential candidate Jan Brundage took
issue with last week’s communiqué item about her request to the union’s
board of directors for money to throw a party for retiring president Richard
“I never asked that dues money be used
for a party for retiring CTU President Richard DeColibus,” she wrote. “I
asked for ‘seed’ money to be advanced and repaid later through ticket sales
and other contributions. I also NEVER stated or implied that dues money
would be used for a retirement gift and also NEVER stated or implied the
gift should/would be a car. Why are you taking the word of one Trustee when
there are five? Perhaps you have a biased interest in this election.”
For the record, EIA stands by the story
as written, which included the reminiscences of DeColibus himself on the
matter (among other things, he said he preferred a small bulldozer to a
car), and has no interest, biased or otherwise, in the next CTU
president-for-life. As for the non-existent distinction between dues money
and seed money, I can only direct Ms. Brundage to Lord Byron: “I should have
known what fruit would spring from such a seed.”
7) Two Ways to Get Loaded.
High school history teacher Sotero Sotello of Brownsville, Texas, was
sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for activities related to his
second job – he was selling guns out of his drive-through beer store.
8) Lessons of Byzantium Lost in
Minnesota. Minnesota’s new social studies
standards for fourth-graders no longer require students to identify the
major characteristics of the Byzantine Empire. This is a sensible move, but
it should be coupled with a parallel effort to acquaint education
policy-makers with the major characteristics of the Byzantine Empire.
My own studies of the topic have been
invaluable to an understanding of the U.S. public education system. For
example, the 11th century Byzantine commander Kekaumenos told his
sons, “Do not wish to be a bureaucrat, for it is impossible to be both a
general and a comedian.”
of the Week.
“Teacher union: Annual increases not a ‘raise.’” – from a story in the
February 21 North County Times in California, which details the
position of the Oceanside Teachers Association that the $1.5 million in
automatic step and column increases to teacher salaries next year do not
constitute pay raises. Does that mean if the next step had a lower salary,
it wouldn’t be a pay cut?