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January 9, 2006

1)  New Disclosure Reports for NEA Affiliates in New York, Florida, Michigan and Ohio. NEA's financial disclosure report continues to receive massive coverage from both the mainstream media and the blogosphere. But there are similar reports for many other teachers' unions available. EIA has already analyzed the disclosures of:

* American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Education Association

* New York State United Teachers, NEA Rhode Island, Maine Education Association and Pennsylvania State Education Association.

Now we have another handful of reports, this time from NEA New York, Florida Education Association, Michigan Education Association, and Ohio Education Association.

* NEA New York – This affiliate's annual disclosure report has for a long time illustrated its financial plight. This one was no exception. NEA New York took in less than $9.5 million in dues in 2004-05, but it spent $7.8 million on salaries and benefits alone. That was actually a big improvement over previous years. The union also experienced a "demographic" shift over the years that may have implications for other NEA state affiliates. NEA New York finished the year with 39,622 total members, but of these only 20,510 were full-time active professionals – that is, teachers, guidance counselors, et al., who pay the highest level of dues.

NEA New York President Robin Rapaport was the highest paid elected officer at $122,847, while the highest paid staffer was General Counsel Janet Axelrod at $135,226.

* Florida Education Association – FEA took in nearly $19.2 million in dues in 2004-05, and was still owed $70,000 by its Escambia affiliate, and $1.5 million by the United Teachers of Dade in the aftermath of the Tornillo scandal. Both of these loans are more than 180 days past due. The state organization also spent $161,760 on an organizing project in Miami-Dade, in an effort to rebuild membership levels in the wake of the Tornillo arrest. The union has 118,197 active members. FEA President Andrew Ford received $122,320 in 2004-05, plus $28,159 in allowances. The highest paid employee was Chief of Staff Aaron Wallace at $126,878.

* Michigan Education Association – MEA took in $64.3 million in dues in 2004-05, but paid out a whopping $21.9 million in employee benefits alone. Fortunately for the union, it received a substantial amount of additional income, including $4.8 million from MESSA, the union's health insurance subsidiary. Almost 10 percent of NEA's total education support employee membership comes from Michigan alone. MEA has 92,207 active professional members and 38,675 education support members.

MEA President Lu Battaglieri was the organization's highest paid officer at $181,902, while Executive Director Charles Anderson was the highest paid employee at $169,521.

* Ohio Education Association – OEA is yet another NEA state affiliate with staff benefit problems. The union took in $49.3 million in dues in 2004-05, but spent more than $23.7 million in staff benefits. OEA and its retired staffers are at loggerheads over health benefits, and the union even sued its own staff unions last year over retiree representation. OEA has about 104,000 active professional members and 14,500 education support members.

OEA President Gary Allen may be deferring a large part of his salary, or there may be another explanation for why he received $119,521 in 2004-05, but Vice President Patricia Frost-Brook received $184,657 and Secretary-Treasurer William Leibensperger received $132,922. Executive Director Dennis Reardon was OEA's highest paid employee at $153,937.

OEA's disclosure report also reveals advocacy spending similar to that seen in the NEA report. Here are the expenditures that EIA was able to identify:

* Education Tax Policy Institute - $13,000

* Equity and Adequacy Coalition - $5,000

* Ohio Federation of Teachers - $13,600 for "Charter Schools Coalition member mailing"

* Ohio Fair Schools Campaign - $10,000

* Ohioans for Fiscal Responsibility - $50,000

* ACORN Institute - $5,000

* Coalition for Public Education - $10,000

* Bring Ohio Back - $48,000

* Reform Ohio Now - $12,000

* New York State United Teachers - $5,959 for "external education policy."

There are few teacher union affiliates remaining who need to submit these reports. The Landrum-Griffin Act only applies to labor unions that have at least some members working in the private sector. Most NEA affiliates are composed entirely of public sector employees.

2)  Merged New York Union Will Be Called NYSUT. As the proposed merger between NEA New York and the AFT-affiliated New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) moves closer to fruition, EIA has learned that the new, merged organization will be called – New York State United Teachers.

The assimilation of NEA New York will complicate the new organization's dues structure for the next 10 years. Current NEA New York members will have their dues frozen at their current level for the first five years of the organization's existence, and then they will increase at a reduced rate, so that the currently lower NYSUT dues can catch up. However, it does mean that current NEA New York members will be paying higher dues for the next 10 years than will their compatriots in the same, merged organization.

3)  Madison Local Wins Court Fight Against Wisconsin NEA Affiliate. The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Madison Teachers, Inc. in its long-time dispute with its parent organization, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), over the local's affiliation agreement. A consequence of the decision was WEAC's acquiescence in agreeing to a new arbitrator to help the two organizations settle their differences over jurisdictional issues and legal services payments.

4)  Illinois "Pre-Retirement" Dues Proposal Hard to Understand. When delegates to the Illinois Education Association's (IEA) Representative Assembly meet in March at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare, they will discuss and debate a bylaw amendment that I freely admit I am too dense to make heads or tails out of.

Proposed Bylaw Amendment #1 will, according to its rationale, "unify Active and Retired membership" within the union. It takes the current 12-line definition of "retired member" and quadruples it. It takes the current 17-line explanation of retired member dues and expands it to more than 100 lines.

I do know this: if the amendment passes, the dues of all IEA active members will increase $6 per year and they will become "pre-retired subscribers" unless they take advantage of a 60-day window to opt out – in writing. It seems to free the union from the chore of getting active members to become retired members when they retire.

5)  Morty Keeps Speaking the Unspeakable. Morty Rosenfeld, president of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Congress of Teachers in New York, has been a periodic mainstay of this publication for more than eight years. I admire Morty even when I strongly disagree with him, simply because he doesn't have to consult a staff of PR specialists before he tells you what he thinks about public education and his union.

Over the last few months, Morty has written a series of editorials under the common title "Telling What We Know." Part I is here, and Part II is here. The latest installment takes on the issue of testing and, once again, Morty's take isn't what you're hearing elsewhere.

"Railing against testing only earns teachers more public mistrust," he writes. "Besides, if our nation's public schools were doing better on them, we wouldn't be talking about how awful they [the tests] are. If the public actually looked at some of the exams, they would be shaken by the ridiculously low level at which students are expected to perform."

He continues: "We've cautioned them [members] to reject the false choice between solid test preparation and stimulating, exciting classrooms. We easily can and should have both. We've urged them to accept the fact that while all of the responsibility for the performance of our students is not ours, we are the only ones likely to know how to improve it and that we must do so not only because it is the professionally correct thing to do, we must do it if the community we serve is to trust us and take us seriously. Ultimately, we will be held responsible for the poor performance of our students no matter how hard we try to deny it."

I'm sure I haven't done Morty's career any good by promoting his work, but he's a rare commodity and should be widely recognized as such.

6)  Scheduling Note. Due to next Monday's Martin Luther King holiday, the next issue of the EIA Communiqué will appear on Tuesday, January 17.

7)  Quote of the Week. "It is an unfortunate truth that most collective bargaining laws were not passed to make the process fair; they were enacted to control labor." – Maine Education Association President Rob Walker. I'm with you, Rob. Let's get rid of those oppressive collective bargaining laws.


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