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June 15, 2009

1) EIA Exclusive: Proposed Budget Shows No Recession at NEA Headquarters. The economy may be staggering along, the labor movement may be facing financial problems, but the National Education Association continues to let the good times roll.

The proposed 2009-10 NEA budget forecasts $355.8 million in revenue, an increase of $10 million over this year. The headlines warn us of massive teacher layoffs across the nation, but NEA modified its projection of new teacher members upward. Originally expecting an increase of 5,000 new teacher members for 2009-10, the latest proposed budget now predicts 7,000 new teacher members.

The union's Program and Budget Committee, responsible for constructing the budget that NEA delegates will vote on in July at the Representative Assembly, described it in terms usually employed only when austerity is called for: "As we embark on the second year of the 2008-10 Strategic Plan and Budget we are faced with an economy in recession, all levels of government under financial stress, and public education and education employees facing many challenges. The Committee has taken this environment seriously and has ensured that the modified budget reflects the realities of the current economic conditions."

Nevertheless, virtually every NEA program will receive more funding, and spending on salaries and benefits for employees will increase 7.7%, even though the union is funding five fewer positions than in 2008-09.

The budget was put together prior to reaching a tentative contract with NEA's staff union, but it already provided for salary/benefit expenditures of more than $118 million for a staff of 555.

Not included in that total are wages for the union's three executive officers, members of the Executive Committee, and various state affiliate executive directors who are paid by the national union. These payments will increase a modest 2.2%, largely due to the NEA president, vice-president and secretary-treasurer taking no pay hike in 2009-10. They will have to scrape by on the more than $338,000 in taxable income they'll each make next year.

The budget was also created before NEA established a trusteeship over the Indiana State Teachers Association and pledged to bail out ISTA's insurance trust. Despite the massive amounts of revenue, the NEA budget cannot absorb such a large unexpected expense. The obvious lesson of these numbers, however, is that NEA can easily act as guarantor for any loans or credit extended to ISTA, using future dues revenues as collateral.

While NEA's financial picture is rosy, it is predicated on its equally rosy membership projections. This suggests either the union is being unrealistic, or it believes there will end up being a lot fewer teacher layoffs than the scary headlines would suggest.

2) PR Firm Solicitation of the Week. A few weeks ago, I let you know about one of the many solicitations I receive for publicity and promotion of various people, products and services, just because I have an education blog. They're getting progressively more bizarre so I thought I'd make it a semi-regular feature.

The latest is from the PR firm representing, an Internet radio service. They want me to know that they've just created a new station called "Grad Party," and that if I do a giveaway on my blog, they'll offer a one-year subscription worth $3.99 per month.

No thanks, dudes, but I urge all the slackers among my readership to stop trying to identify poisonous fungi and head over there. Because if you're reading an education blog you obviously have a lot of time on your hands.

3) Contract Hits. Wherein we highlight a contract provision from the current agreement between the National Education Association and its largest staff union. This is Article 18, Section 1:

"NEA reserves the right to take actions which may be necessary for economic reasons or to improve the efficiency and/or effectiveness of its operations, including structural reorganization and to lay off or involuntarily transfer employees in implementation of such actions. If the Union contends that a layoff resulting from any such action is not intended to achieve such purposes, it may submit the matter to the grievance and arbitration procedure."

4) Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from June 8-15:

* Three Cheers for Self-Interest! Admitting your own means you must accept that of others.

* Closed-Door Bargaining and the Union Padlock. Only two sides to a negotiating table.

* One of Every Four ISTA Staffers Gets Layoff Notice. Balancing budgets on the backs of workers.

* Education Action Group Expands Into Indiana. Tomorrow, the world.

* Layons. Some stay. Some go. Some are told they're going, but stay anyway.

5) Quote of the Week. "Over the last three decades the number of history faculty members at four-year institutions has more than doubled to 20,000-plus, said Robert B. Townsend, assistant director for research at the American Historical Association. Yet the growth has been predominantly in the newer specializations, spurring those in diplomatic, military, legal and economic history to complain they are being squeezed out.

"In 1975, for example, three-quarters of college history departments employed at least one diplomatic historian; in 2005 fewer than half did. The number of departments with an economic historian fell to 31.7 percent from 54.7 percent. By contrast the biggest gains were in women’s history, which now has a representative in four out of five history departments." – Patricia Cohen. (June 11 New York Times)


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