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October 31, 2011

1) Teachers' Unions Set Financial Priorities. It's no secret (anymore) that the National Education Association has lost members due to layoffs, enrollment declines and the collective bargaining law in Wisconsin. Previous losses resulted in a $14 million budget shortfall, and the missing $178 from each missing teacher will add newer and larger deficits.

But while NEA has little experience in cutting costs, the union is highly skilled in applying cash and resources to its immediate priorities. For the next year and beyond, those will be political actions designed to turn back the tide of collective bargaining measures in the states.

NEA hasn't been stingy with campaign grants for state ballot initiatives and legislative battles, yet is still sitting on a war chest of nearly $26.6 million for the 2011-12 school year alone. When coupled with the resources of its state affiliates, there is zero chance that anyone, anywhere, will outspend NEA on a political campaign.

The state affiliates are acting in the same fashion as NEA. The California Teachers Association suffered a 4.2 percent loss in active membership even before the latest round of layoffs. The loss of revenue prompted CTA to sell off three of its 35 regional resource centers. Yet the union budgeted $3.9 million for its media fund, maintained its $36-per-member initiative fund and its $20-per-member "advocacy" contribution, and recently approved a $2 increase to the union's candidate PAC. CTA currently collects $18.45 per member in PAC money. Unlike federal PACs or PACs in many other states, California PACs are allowed to deduct contributions from paychecks along with union dues, so that objecting members have to request a refund.

Democrats control all the levers of power in California, so it is not entirely clear where CTA plans to spend this money, though it is well-positioned to launch a tax increase campaign, and may also seek to temper Gov. Brown's more radical ideas.

All of which suggests that however beleaguered NEA may be in the current political climate, the practical effects will be mostly felt internally, through staff and program cuts on the fringes of the union's normal activities. Those counting on reduced membership leading to weakened political campaigns are in for a rude awakening.

2) Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from October 25-31:

Did NYSUT Prez Really Get a $45,000 Raise? I don't think so, but it's hard to be sure.

In Rhode Island, Not Teaching Is More Lucrative Than Teaching. "Yesterday, we didn't come. That's $300."

Make the Greedy [Half] Millionaires Pay! Deflated.

More Bad News for WEAC. Wisconsin school districts get litigious.

3) Quote of the Week. "Sixty-seven is kind of advanced." - California Teachers Association spokesman Frank Wells, commenting on the plan by 73-year-old Gov. Jerry Brown to raise the public employee retirement age to 67. (October 30 Bloomberg)


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