1) Has NEA Reversed Its Membership
Fortunes? The National Education Association is
reporting an active membership increase of 30,000 in the 2004-05 year – a
vast improvement over last year and a reversal of the flattening growth rate
it has experienced since 2001-02. The membership growth is about equally
divided between teachers and support employees, and the union is reporting
membership growth in more than 30 states. If the numbers are accurate, it
would also mean a slight increase in "market share" for NEA, with teacher
membership growth over 0.8 percent, while most estimates of teacher hiring
last year fall between a 0.6 and 0.7 percent increase.
This is surprising good news for the
union, though EIA lacks the state-by-state data to make a more cogent
assessment. Is the growth coming from the large, union-friendly states or
from right-to-work states? A 10,000-member increase in one state can mask
losses elsewhere. Also, the percentage growth of lower-dues support
employees far exceeds the growth of full-dues teachers, affecting the
union's bottom line.
Nevertheless, such a boost means an
additional $3.3 million for NEA's national coffers next year alone, and
additional millions for the union's state and local affiliates. It also
gives NEA a glimmer of hope of better times ahead after its post-election
2) NEA Board Approves Exemption to
Allow New York Merger. The NEA board of directors
approved a by-law amendment that would allow NEA New York (NEANY) and the
New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) to merge without guaranteeing the
secret ballot vote for all affiliates.
The secret ballot provision (NEA
affiliates have it, AFT affiliates do not) threatens to derail the New York
merger, which was approved by a large majority of NEANY directors, though
opposed by the leaders of its largest local affiliate, the Buffalo Teachers
Federation. The approval by the NEA board sends the matter before the NEA
Representative Assembly, which will meet July 4 weekend in Los Angeles.
Approximately 9,000 delegates will vote -- by secret ballot -- on the
question and a simple majority is needed to approve it.
The NEA board approved the bylaw
amendment 139-37 after it was amended to specify New York as the only place
it would apply.
What will happen in July? That is
entirely up to the state affiliate officers in the anti-merger states:
Michigan, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Iowa and others. If they
decide this is an important enough battle to fight, they will fight and win.
Since the NEA-AFT merger was defeated in 1998, EIA has seen no groundswell
of support for incremental merger. If they fight, I would expect a result
similar to that of 1998: a 58%-42% defeat.
If, however, they take a hands-off
approach, a majority of delegates will likely let NEANY go its own way. But
calling it a merger is a misnomer. The AFT-affiliated NYSUT outnumbers NEANY
in membership by more than 10 to 1, and NEANY has been hemorrhaging members
and money for years. NYSUT will be absorbing NEANY and, for all intents and
purposes, NEA's presence and influence in New York will disappear.
3) California Teachers Association
Opens Its Mouth, and Wallet. The California
Teachers Association (CTA) State Council met at the end of last month and,
boy, were they squawking.
The 800-member council voted unanimously
to oppose special session legislation that would implement Gov.
Schwarzenegger's education plan: to institute performance pay, to modify
Proposition 98 school funding guarantees, and to change new public employee
pensions to defined contribution plans. The union will also oppose any
ballot initiatives with similar aims.
The council members approved the release
of CTA's entire initiative fund to be used to fight this year's ballot
battles. EIA does not know the current balance of that account, but the
union collects $36 per year per full-time member for the fund –
approximately $10 million annually. Coupled with expected NEA contributions
and the help of like-minded organizations, EIA estimates the CTA war chest
would approach $30 million in time for the November 2005 elections.
"The governor likes to quote movie
lines," said CTA President Barbara Kerr. "I've got a favorite movie and in
it the Dark Side loses because the Force is too powerful." (EIA Note:
I like On the Waterfront myself.) Kerr also promised that, as EIA
reported last week, the November ballot will feature a host of union
initiatives as well.
EIA suggests a surtax on
signature-gatherers, campaign consultants, PR firms and lawyers. The money
raised from CTA's political spending would be returned to individual
teachers. The money raised from the governor's spending would be distributed
to non-union charter schools. Then at least some benefit will be derived
regardless of the outcome of the votes.
4) Bits & Pieces.
* National NEA dues for the 2005-06 school year will be $140
(an increase of $3), and $78.50 for education support employees (an increase
* NEA national headquarters will
institute another staff reorganization plan next month. Previous
reorganizations mostly juggled regional offices, but this one seems to be
* NEA will be supporting a new
organizing effort in Missouri by reducing dues in that state.
* NEA asked its two affiliates in Hawaii
-- the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the University of Hawaii
Professional Assembly – to work more closely together. Expect more joint
appearances at community events and more internal contacts between the two
* The Michigan Education Association is
making progress in stabilizing its finances after an unprecedented $112 dues
increase two years ago. Nevertheless, the union is still paying off a loan
for operating expenses and has an unfunded $51 million obligation for health
benefits for retired staffers.
* Vermont NEA plans to raise its dues
$17 next year in order to close a budget deficit.
5) NEA Board Showed Sense… Too Bad.
NEA has held its February board of directors meeting, but EIA only just
learned that at the December meeting, the board member from Alaska submitted
a motion calling on NEA to authorize a national teacher walk-out in protest
of the No Child Left Behind Act. The board rejected the motion.
What a shame! I think most of us – no
matter our leanings – prefer an honest, direct approach over the insincere
we-want-to-work-with-the-President stuff. Call for the walk-out, see who
responds and total up the numbers. I'm all for it.
6) New York City Union Applies to
Open Two Charter Schools. The United Federation of
Teachers (UFT) in New York City submitted an application to open two charter
schools – a K-5 school to open in September, and a 6-12 school in September
"We really want to dispel the myth that
the union contract is in any way an obstacle to education," said John
Soldini, a former UFT officer who served as co-chair of the union committee
tasked to evaluate the idea. The committee also expects the schools to
"demonstrate to other charter schools the value of organizing" and to "serve
as part of the fight against privatization and union-busting."
Now there's a mission statement designed
to appeal to parents and students!
The UFT schools are not necessarily
doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. But I hope anyone forming an
opinion of this will first read two EIA essays: 1) Loving Charter Schools
– to Death, a report I did for the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution in
1999. They no longer have the report online and I don't have the version
they published, but I will e-mail the draft version I submitted back then to
anyone who requests it; and 2) the
August 4, 2003 EIA Communiqué, which contains the post-mortem of
the union-run Kwachiiyoa Charter School in San Diego.
7) Parents Turn the Tables in
Pennsylvania. This story qualifies as unusual
because we're so used to seeing teachers' unions picket school board
meetings. The Abington Heights School District has been embroiled in
contentious contract negotiations and labor strife for more than two years.
The main sticking point is teacher contributions to health care costs.
Last week, two dozen parents staged an
informational picket outside the building where school board members and
union negotiators were about to meet. According to the Scranton Times,
the union team was greeted with shouts of "Move on health care!" and were
handed pamphlets reading "Taxpayers Have Had Enough." The school board
president was met with cheers.
8) A Comforting Thought.
If you will be having a romantic Valentine's Day dinner tonight, you will be
pleased to hear of a new study from the University of Oslo. It concludes
that lobsters – along with most other invertebrates -- don't have the
capacity to feel pain, even if submerged in boiling water. EIA prefers to
sheathe them in protective ravioli, just in case.
9) Scheduling Note.
Due to Monday's national holiday, the EIA Communiqué will next appear
on Tuesday, February 22.
10) Quote of the Week.
"We do not want to reform Proposition 98. We don't think it
meets the goal that California has set for itself to become one of the most
competitive states where per-pupil spending is concerned." – California
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez. Translation: Since becoming competitive in
student achievement appears to be out of reach, we might as well concentrate
on our strength -- spending! (February 14 San Diego Union-Tribune)