May 20, 2013
Can Florida Real Estate Bail Out United Teachers of Dade? Ten years ago, the FBI raided the headquarters of the United Teachers of Dade, bringing to public view the theft of millions of dollars of dues money by UTD president Pat Tornillo. The embezzlement was disguised by a series of late dues payments, bank loans and the collateral of the union’s real estate holdings. When the truth came to light, UTD was placed in the unenviable position of making good on the debts Tornillo left behind.
Since 2003, UTD has been able to avoid the bald-faced larceny that marked the Tornillo years, but it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing financially, either. It sold its headquarters building for $22 million and has leased space in it since then. Despite the election of reform-minded officers, the union has had more than its share of internal problems.
Today, with the election of a new president, who was the sitting secretary-treasurer, UTD would appear to be poised to finally escape its debt-ridden history and reestablish itself as a major teachers’ union local. But the numbers don’t lie, and UTD is still a ward of its parent affiliates ten years after Tornillo’s arrest.
UTD owes AFT more than $2.4 million of an operations loan, and another $2.1 million in back dues. It also owes the Florida Education Association almost $1.5 million in back dues.
Six million dollars of debt is substantial for a $10 million enterprise, but the picture is worse because UTD continues to budget based on unrealistic membership projections. The 2012-13 budget was crafted with the expectation of 12,000 full-time equivalent members. But the union only has 11,554 FTEs – a shortfall of $365,000 that has to be made up somehow.
Nevertheless, UTD drafted an optimistic 2013-14 budget based on 11,650 FTEs.
UTD can bumble along this way indefinitely, but it will never be able to pay off its debt. And so it once again has turned to dumping property.
The senior housing building the union’s non-profit subsidiary owns is apparently under contract to a seller for $14 million, though there is some controversy over why UTD turned down a more lucrative offer last year. The union still owes money on this building, but has promised to turn any profits from its sale over to its foundation for teaching excellence.
Additionally, though UTD sold its headquarters building on Biscayne Boulevard, it still owns the 71,000 square foot empty lot that sits behind it. UTD recently decided to put that lot up for sale. It has been assessed at more than $2.1 million.
A source tells EIA that AFT was directly involved in the decision to make the sale, suggesting the proceeds might be targeted to loan or dues repayment. Just as with NEA, the national union will naturally intervene to keep its state and local affiliates afloat. But it could become problematic if the number of fiscal basket cases continues to grow.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 14-20:
* NEA Offense Looks a Lot Like Defense. Pulling the goalie.
* Education Song Rejects. These didn’t make Andy Rotherham’s list.
* Staff Union Strife in Washington State. Maybe it’s the weather.
* Free Enterprise. Commercialization of schools!
Scheduling Note. The next communiqué will appear Tuesday, May 28.
Quote of the Week #1. “Everybody wants to see more spending. That’s what this place is, a big spending machine. You need something? Go over there and see if you can get it. Well, I am the backstop at the end, and I’m going to keep this budget balanced as long as I’m here.” – California Gov. Jerry Brown. (May 15 San Jose Mercury News)
Quote of the Week #2. “Even as Gov. Jerry Brown pledges to chip away at the state’s debt, his budget plan will leave California on the hook for billions more in school funding down the line.” – Los Angeles Times reporters Chris Megerian and Anthony York. (May 16 Los Angeles Times)
May 13, 2013
NEA Membership Numbers Haven’t Hit Bottom Yet. The National Education Association thinks it sees light at the end of its long tunnel, reporting losses of 38,000 members this year, which is a significant slowing from 2012. The economy has stabilized, if still weak, and it only makes sense that teacher layoffs would level off as well.
Before you get too excited, there are a number of problems unrelated to school district staffing that still exert a downward influence on teacher union membership. In fact, without a countervailing increase in the level of hiring, it is likely that NEA’s total membership will soon fall below 3 million – a level it hasn’t seen since the NYSUT merger in 2006.
The state unions acted quickly in Wisconsin and Michigan in the face of new collective bargaining laws. Many local affiliates were still under contract, or quickly finalized new contracts, which will allow them to hang on to their members for the time being. However, as time passes and those locals feel the effect of the new laws, their membership numbers will steadily continue to drop. As it is, the Wisconsin Education Association Council cut its dues by $27 in an effort to retain members.
Also, NEA’s current numbers do not yet account for the loss of its lone higher education state affiliate, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly. The 3,000 UHPA members won’t come off NEA rolls until September.
In the meantime, NEA engineered a campaign to get the UHPA board of directors to reverse its disaffiliation vote. The national union organized phone banks and volunteers in an effort to drum up opposition, which has largely fallen on deaf ears. This isn’t necessarily because there was so much support for disaffiliation, but because the average member really doesn’t care one way or the other.
The UHPA leadership cares, though, and it sent an e-mail memo lambasting NEA for interfering in its internal affairs:
On March 18, UHPA President Adrienne Valdez issued a letter to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel requesting that NEA stop direct communications with UHPA members. This request has not been honored. Members continue to receive phone calls and other communications from the National Education Association.
…NEA’s communications are designed to undermine the UHPA elected leadership and the By-laws of our union. The NEA direct communication with members also challenges UHPA’s role as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for the UH faculty through attacks on leaders that do not agree with them. NEA has even begun to circulate a petition in an attempt to rescind the Board’s vote to disaffiliate with the NEA.
…Unfortunately, the NEA tactics make this a battle of winning at all costs. In part this relates to the significant membership and dues loss suffered by NEA since 2010. When NEA President Van Roekel spoke to the UHPA Board in July 2012, he noted that between September 1, 2010 and September 1, 2012, the NEA was projecting to lose 150,000 members. Projections from NEA in 2012 cite an anticipated total loss of 308,000 members by 2014.
UHPA’s membership represents 1/1000 of NEA’s total membership and collectively contributes more than $350,000 in net dues to NEA. With NEA’s declining membership, even UHPA’s decision is a threat to NEA and its bottom line. However, NEA’s foremost concern may be UHPA’s influence on other higher education affiliates to consider independence as an option.
At such a critical time when UH faculty members should be focused on priorities that include legislative issues affecting UH funding and preparing for our new contract negotiations, it is unfortunate the NEA is creating a distraction and seems more concerned with self-preservation than the welfare of its own members.
NEA could learn from AFT that this sort of tactic rarely works out.
With its internal situation in turmoil, the union will increasingly look to external means – increased hiring and funding from state agencies and school districts – to restore its former glory. Expect major initiatives, especially in union-friendly states, centering around class-size reduction and rescinding layoffs, in an effort to bolster membership numbers.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 7-13:
* Boo-Hooey. Duncan and the AERA deserve each other.
* What the AFL-CIO Can Do for Veterans. From underpaid to overpaid in one fell swoop.
* NEA Names Sen. Patty Murray 2013 “Friend of Education.” Someone has to win.
* Who’s to Blame for Widmer’s Theft? You can follow the money from either end.
* Feature or Bug? When did self-promotion become a liability for union presidents?
Quote of the Week. “Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world. Once upon a time you saw people like this in every newsroom in the country. They often had chaotic personal lives and they died early of cirrhosis or a heart attack. But they were tough, angry SOBs and they produced great stories.” – columnist Brett Arends. (May 12 MarketWatch)
May 6, 2013
Devastating Budget Cuts Still Look Like Increases So Far. The National Center for Education Statistics issued its “First Look” at comprehensive school district revenues and expenditures for the 2009-10 school year. It’s a welcome report, though not exactly a “first look” since it uses U.S. Census Bureau figures available since last fall.
According to the authoritative National Bureau of Economic Research, America’s “Great Recession” began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. Because of the vast number of agencies involved, it takes years to gather and report definitive public education revenue and spending data. So while we may eventually see figures that corroborate the tales of woe we hear from those quarters, that time has not yet arrived. Quite the contrary, in fact.
Here are a few of the center’s findings:
* School districts reported $599.9 billion in total revenues.
* That was an increase of 0.8 percent from the previous year, in inflation-adjusted dollars.
* Current expenditures per-pupil, however, rose 1.0 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.
* Some states did experience significant spending cuts – Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah all had reductions of more than 5 percent. On the other hand, Illinois, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, West Virginia and the District of Columbia all increased spending by more than 5 percent.
* About 61.2 percent of those expenditures went towards employee salaries, and another 21.3 percent to employee benefits. That left about 17.5 percent for just about everything else – student transportation, school books and materials, energy costs, external services, and supplies.
* Outside of current per-pupil spending, we spent $47.1 billion on school construction, $3.3 billion on land and existing structures, $9.4 billion on equipment, and $17.7 billion in interest on school debt.
These numbers are important not just because they highlight the truly awe-inspiring amount we spend on public education, even in terrible economic times, but what we spend it on as well. Whether you think it’s too much or too little, it’s mostly spent on labor, and so the economics and politics of labor have an influence far beyond any focus on curriculum, performance or evaluation. School is big business.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 30-May 6:
* Who Cares About Apathy? Lack of member involvement can work to your advantage.
* Nope, Still Not Worried About Charter School Unionization. Pushing against the tide.
* Sometimes the Union Is Not at Fault (It’s True!). A taste of IRS bureaucracy.
* Around the Horn. A farrago of factoids from across the country.
* Mobile Site No Longer Stationary. Tech problem fixed.
Quote of the Week. “Once they got somebody in there they thought was doing a good job, they let them stay forever. It was like pulling teeth to get people to do any of those (union) jobs.” – Philip Dello Stritto, former Auburn Teachers Association vice president under the late Sally Jo Widmer, who was alleged to have stolen $808,000 from the union. (May 5 Syracuse Post-Standard)
April 29, 2013
Stealing by Stalling: Dues Transmittal Delays Can Cover Up Theft. Over the past 10 years we have had a string of local teacher union officers committing major theft of dues money: Pat Tornillo in Miami, Barbara Bullock in Washington DC, Pat Santeramo in Broward County, and several others. But these were presidents of large locals, with many members and big budgets. More recent crimes involve officers of small locals.
In Maryland, Denise Inez Owens was the treasurer of the 600-member Worcester County Teachers Association, but she still managed to steal more than $433,000. Last week we learned that Sally Jo Widmer, president of the 400-member Auburn Teachers Association in New York, made off with at least $808,000. This is only possible because of a bug in the dues transmittal system, which is a reasonably efficient method of passing dues up the chain so that parent unions get their share.
In most cases, school districts extract the entire amount of each member’s dues and send it to the local union each pay period. But the local isn’t required to immediately forward the state and national unions’ share. The NEA by-laws spell out the normal procedure:
A local shall transmit to a state affiliate and a state affiliate shall transmit to the Association at least forty (40) percent of the Association dues receivable for the year by March 15 and at least seventy (70) percent of the Association dues receivable for the year by June 1; the percentage shall be based upon the last membership count prior to January 15…
In short, even small locals have large sums deposited for several months before they have to transmit the funds to their state affiliates. It might even be easier for officers of small locals to commit fraud under these circumstances because there are fewer people to enforce safeguards and/or become whistleblowers.
An examination of the 2012 financial disclosure report for the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) reveals the Auburn Teachers Association under Widmer was behind on its dues transmittal by $36,816 – $18,339 of which was overdue by more than 90 days. That’s not much cash in the overall scheme of things, but in a local of 400 members, it is a significant amount.
There are dozens of legitimate reasons for a local to fall behind on its dues obligations to the state and national affiliates, but the major cases of fraud noted above were almost always accompanied by late dues transmittals (see item#4 here, just prior to the raid on Tornillo’s office).
The handful of teachers’ unions subject to the Landrum-Griffin Act are required to report the status of their accounts receivable, which includes overdue dues transmittals from locals, but they are not required to itemize every single one. NYSUT, for example, was owed money by at least 39 locals in 2012, including more than $19.7 million by the United Federation of Teachers, the largest local in the nation, of which almost $6.9 million was more than 180 days overdue. The local at New York University owed $627,297, all of it more than 180 days overdue.
Smaller locals also had late dues transmittals. The Goshen Teachers Association owed $39,580, much of it 90 days late. The same was true of the East Williston Teachers Association, the Clarence Teachers Association, the Uniondale Teachers Association, and the Rockland Community College Federation of Teachers.
In other areas of the country, the Chicago Teachers Union was almost $2.3 million behind, “various” Michigan locals were a total of $257,473 behind, the Jefferson Federation of Teachers in Louisiana was almost $419,000 behind, and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association was $225,515 behind. And of course, the United Teachers of Dade (UTD) still owes AFT more than $2.5 million, stemming from the Tornillo scandal. UTD also owed almost $1.5 million to the Florida Education Association.
NEA and its affiliates have some laggards. NEA national was short almost $2.2 million from Florida, $590,000 from Georgia, $557,000 from Alabama, and $1.7 million from the Wisconsin Education Association Council, probably due to sudden membership losses in that state. NEA wrote off an additional $196,000 in fiscal year 2011 dues that it was never able to collect from various state affiliates.
Among those state affiliates, there were more late dues transmittals from locals. In Illinois, Local Education Association of District 300 ($100K), Downers Grove Elementary Education Association ($95K) and District 21 Education Association ($77K) owed money. In Florida, the Big Bend/Central Panhandle Service Unit and the local in Escambia owed a combined $166K and were more than 180 days late.
The list goes on: the Montrose Education Association in Pennsylvania, the Northwest Local Education Association in Ohio, Port Huron and Ionia City education associations in Michigan, and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers in Minnesota all owed money to their parent affiliates.
There is no way for an outsider to tell – and few ways for insiders – how the national and state unions ensure that dues reach their prescribed destinations, and whether delays are because of legitimate shortfalls and unforeseen circumstances.
The financial structure of the teachers’ unions makes it possible for wealthy affiliates to organize and subsidize poorer affiliates. Consequently, fraud and misappropriations can affect the bottom lines of all associated unions. It’s a rare crook who would steal from a local but leave the state and national funds untouched.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 23-29:
* Late Union President’s Astonishing $800K Theft. More than $2,000 per member.
* Widmer Committed Suicide, Left $50K to Union in Will. Remorse or insult to injury?
* Big Fish in a Little Pond of Voters. Does this make UFT the ex-teachers’ union?
* Aberration or Trend? Unusual election outcomes in some NEA state affiliates.
* NEA Should Have Reconsidered Its Motion to Reconsider. Spanked again by Indiana judge.
Headline of the Week. “Maine lawmakers propose $30 million in additional education funding without revenue to pay for it.” – April 24 Bangor Daily News
April 22, 2013
Seven Not-So-Fun Facts About the Costs of Public Education. I was in the midst of writing this for posting on Income Tax Day when last Monday’s tragedy occurred.
For many years we have expressed education expenditures as “per-pupil spending.” This is a reasonably good way to frame the numbers, though controversy sometimes arises over what is included and what isn’t. The following is a list of different angles on the same spending. All the figures cited are for 2010, courtesy of the National Center of Education Statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the U.S. Census Bureau.
1) Revenues collected by governments for public education in the United States totaled $593.7 billion. About $261.4 billion came from local sources, $258.2 billion from state sources, and $74 billion from federal sources.
2) That’s about $1,922 from each and every American.
3) Or $2,531 from each adult, 18 and older.
4) Or $4,567 from each non-farm American worker on a payroll.
5) That amounts to 11.4 percent of the average worker’s salary, or $2.20 per hour.
6) The average American employee thus works almost one hour every day to fund public schools.
7) It would take the entire salary of 14,842,500 employees to pay for U.S. public schools, equivalent to the entire retail trade workforce.
Public education advocates often speak of school spending as an investment. It’s clear that our portfolio is heavily weighted in the education sector. The shareholders are understandably upset by weak ROIs and incessant margin calls. No wonder they responded by downsizing.
Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 16-22:
* The Evergreen Charter School Unionization Story. There you go again.
* Hawaii Pays for Performance Pay. That’s a pretty big carrot.
* Exclusive Video of Chicago Teachers Union Candidate Training. Look, it’s the queen of diamonds!
* Hedge Fund Hilarity. Fair share.
* Math Skills Not Required. We’re gonna need a bigger calculator.
Quote of the Week. “We don’t blame the firefighters when there’s a fire, and we don’t blame the police for crime! Why would we? Then why are educators being blamed for the struggles of our public schools? Let’s look at the policies and the policymakers instead of the people doing the work every day.” – Earl Wiman, current member of the National Education Association Executive Committee. (April 12 speech to the Virginia Education Association Delegate Assembly)
We pay firefighters to put out fires. We pay police officers to catch criminals. We pay teachers to educate children. NEA pays Wiman to obscure the issue.
April 15, 2013
1) Say a Prayer for the Victims of the Boston Marathon Explosions. Horrible news today, but even worse for the group of Newtown, Connecticut parents who were running in the race in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre.
As I write this, the Boston Police Department is reporting 2 dead and 23 injured. Keep them all in your thoughts and prayers.
UPDATE: Newtown Patch reporting Sandy Hook parents who ran in race are safe.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 9-15:
* What Happens When You Assume. Rose-colored glasses improve the view, but not the smell.
* Union Uses PAC Money to Pay School Board President’s Campaign Fine. Is that what it’s for?
* New Jersey School Stats Stir the Pot. Current vs. total.
* WEAC Executive Director Stepping Down. New direction or slow descent?
* A Very Special Episode of “Glee.” No, not the school shooting stuff.
3) Quote of the Week. “We do think it’s paramount… that districts do get restored at least back to their ’07-’08 levels.” –Andrea Ball of the California School Boards Association, voicing some discontent with Gov. Jerry Brown’s school funding plan. (April 10 SI&A Cabinet Report)
April 8, 2013
1) Relativity and Its Effect on Education Staffing Levels. Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be a treatise of any sort. It’s just that the March 2013 Employment Situation report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has bad news not just for the U.S. economy in general, but for education employees specifically. Most of these workers, including most K-12 public school teachers, fall under the BLS category of “Local government, education.” That sector lost 2,000 jobs in March, and 24,200 jobs since March 2012.
It continues an interrupted downward trend in the public education workforce since its peak of more than 8.1 million employees in July 2008, as depicted by this simple graph.
That’s a 4.4 percent drop in about five years. While that’s a hardship on everyone involved, it only took the four previous years – from June 2004 to July 2008 – to add those jobs to the public education workforce.
If we take the extreme long view, this decline is hard to notice. The BLS statistics go back to 1955, and this is what staffing looks like over the entire 58-year period.
The staffing numbers for 1955 would obviously be inadequate for the student population of 2013. The same for 1985. But since desires are infinite, and resources are finite, how are we so certain that the staffing levels of 2008 were an optimal use of funding?
The economy will eventually improve. Tax revenues will grow, and lawmakers will find ways to spend them. The pressure will be on to restore staffing to pre-recession levels. Before that becomes mired in the usual political wars, wouldn’t this be a good opportunity to ask why?
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 2-8:
* The Less-Than-One-Percenters. How small does a rally have to get before it’s downgraded to “get-together.”
* Rhee-actionaries. How lefties deal with racism in the ranks.
* How Slow Can You Go? Cut to the Chase.
* New Argument Against Vouchers: Your Kid Might Have to Ride the Bus. Whatever works.
* There’s No App For That. Low data plan.
3) Quote of the Week. “Money for implementing the new Common Core State Standards and adult education would also be part of the new formula and decided at the local level. That, quite honestly is unacceptable. And CTA has had those conversations with the governor. There must also be accountability provisions in this funding proposal to ensure districts spend the money the way they are supposed to in order to meet student needs. It will be important for educators to get involved and have a say in these local issues, which is why we are recommending that local chapters not rush into settlements between now and when the revised state budget comes out in May.” – Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association, in an April 6 speech to the union’s State Council.
April 1, 2013
1) Money and Membership Dominate NEA State Affiliate Concerns. Spring is when many National Education Associations state affiliates hold their conventions, and while I wish I had access to all their budgets contemporaneously, there is usually a delay of a year or more before comprehensive numbers are available.
In the meantime we have to make do with a hand-gathered sample of states and what they are facing for the 2013-14 school year.
* Connecticut Education Association – One of NEA’s healthier state affiliates in 2011 became significantly less healthy in 2012 despite a budget surplus of more than $1 million. That’s because revenue projections to fund post-retirement benefits for union staff had to be reduced because of continued low interest rates. CEA has about $12 million in staff pension liabilities and an additional $9 million in post-retirement medical benefit liabilities.
The union budgeted for a membership level of 36,260, which would be about 1,000 members below 2011’s level.
* Missouri NEA – Planning on a $10 dues increase after a loss of 1,000 members last year – to just under 27,000. The union is budgeting 65 percent of its income for personnel costs.
* Ohio Education Association – OEA closed two field offices, reduced 10 staff positions by attrition, and realigned service regions to allow fewer employees to cover more ground. The union lost 4,600 members last year and is expecting to lose 3,000 more by the end of this school year. If the trend is not reversed, OEA will soon fall below 100,000 full-time equivalent members.
OEA also suffered greatly from its post-retirement obligations. It currently has about $60 million in pension and retiree health care liabilities. Pension and health care contributions was by far the largest line-item in the union’s budget, exceeding even salaries plus payroll taxes.
* Vermont NEA – Planning on no change in active membership of 10,350, but calling for an $18 per member dues increase for a $4.65 million budget for 2013-14. All but $1 million of that will be spent on employee salaries and benefits.
* Virginia Education Association – I don’t have detailed budget information for VEA, but it is reducing the number of regional districts from 26 to 17, and reducing the minimum number of representatives on the board of directors from 33 to 15. Additionally, VEA will amend its by-laws to allow for electronic meetings and conferences.
* Other affiliates are planning for dues increases. The Nebraska State Education Association will ask for $380 (up $4), Kansas NEA $374 (up $5), Iowa State Education Association $489 (up $8), South Dakota Education Association $381 (up $11), and Wyoming Education Association $490 (up $15).
If you have similar information for other affiliates and it can be verified with documentation, send it along and I’ll update everyone.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 26-April 1:
* Bad, Bad Week in Indiana Courts for NEA, ISTA. The unions will face trial for securities fraud.
* Is James G. Blaine Finally Dead? Vouchers will continue to see legal challenges, but one argument might become moot.
* Decertification Oddities in Florida and Montana. Deadlines.
* “House of Cards” Causes Union Guy to Flush. Switch to decaf, dude.
* Campus Gun Ban Hit By Musket Volley. The shot heard ‘round the world.
* Labor-Saving Technology. No e-mails for three weeks, and then all in one day from Feedburner. I switched to MailChimp and let’s hope that mess is behind us. Thanks for your patience.
3) Quote of the Week. “We don’t condone cheating, but when you have high-stakes testing, which are one-shot deals that don’t tell you whether a child is going to fail or succeed, the whole setup in terms of No Child Left Behind was unfair to children, unfair to educators.” – Verdaillia Turner, president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers, remarking on the indictments in the Atlanta test cheating scandal. (April 1 MSNBC)
If you received this all right via e-mail, let me know. I switched to MailChimp and will be tweaking it in the coming weeks. Thanks for your patience.
I apologize for the failure of the system to get you last Monday’s communique’ – and maybe previous Mondays as well. I’m trying out a new service, so if you receive this via-email, respond and let me know.
If it works, there will probably be a few tweaks to the design, so if you have suggestions or desires, get them in now and I’ll try to incorporate them. Thanks for your patience. Automation is a lot of work.
I am having lots of problems with the Communique RSS feed, particularly the e-mail delivery, so bear with me while I try to work it out. Thanks.
March 25, 2013
1) NEA’s Legacy: $310 Million in Direct Campaign Spending Since 2000. I was recently provided with a partial summary of the ballot initiative spending of the National Education Association and its state affiliates over the last five years. The figures were substantial, to say the least. A few years ago, I attempted to create a comprehensive accounting of the unions’ political campaign spending, but concentrated on a single election cycle. Using the data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, I decided to check on NEA’s total direct campaign spending since 2000, the year NEA created its Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund and assessed each member to fill its coffers.
NEA and its state affiliates spent more than $310 million in direct contributions on political campaigns for candidates and issues in that 12-year period. That figure does not include independent expenditures or issue advertising. Almost $53.4 million came from NEA national headquarters, while another $257.1 million was spent by affiliates.
More than 47.3 percent of that total – almost $147 million – was spent in California or on behalf of California ballot measures and candidates.
The union spent more than $92.3 million on candidates and party committees. About 86.3% of those were Democrat-affiliated, and 11.5% were Republican-affiliated. The rest were nonpartisan or third-party candidates. About $60.9 million went to candidates alone, 66.3% of whom were incumbents and 14.2% challengers. The rest were open seats. Candidates backed financially by NEA and its affiliates won 73.2% of the time.
NIMSP data on ballot initiative spending only goes back as far as 2004, and while I have NEA national expenditures for the previous four years, I don’t have figures for every state affiliate. Suffice to say additional millions were spent on ballot measures from 2000-04, but we can’t adequately account for it all.
NEA and its affiliates spent almost $218.1 million on ballot initiatives alone from 2004 to 2012. Of the ten measures that drew that most spending by the union, eight were in California. The other two were in Ohio in 2011 and Oregon in 2008.
The National Education Association and its state affiliates are a giant political machine in perpetual motion. That machine is fueled with the dues and PAC contributions of 3 million public school employees and retirees. We would do well to keep that in mind as we debate the relative merits of things like Common Core or teacher evaluation systems and their outlooks for success.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 19-25:
* NEA “Only” Down 70,000 More Members. Half the budgeted loss.
* I Still Don’t Understand the News Cycle. 70,000 in one year is news, but 150,000 in two years isn’t?
* Hawaii Teachers Now Contractually Obligated Not to Flee Scene of Emergency. Work-to-rule protection?
* Union Health Trust Begins Its “Journey of Change.” Which side wants to increase teachers’ premiums and which side says no.
* How “Informal Bargaining” Works in Wisconsin. Campaign of annoyance.
3) Quote of the Week. “I stand for direct election of any CTA board of directors member who represents a geographical district. Currently your CTA Board member is elected by CTA State Council. Direct election of Board candidates will put the electoral process in school site lunchrooms and local union offices and make our politics more accountable to membership. Your CTA dues are $647 per year; shouldn’t you be allowed to vote?” – Mark Kotch, candidate for vice president of the California Teachers Association. (March 2013 California Educator)
March 18, 2013
1) NEA to Unveil “Raise Your Hand” Campaign. The National Education Association often feels itself to be the target of education reform, so it routinely generates reform campaigns of its own. The latest in the series has its roots in December 2010, when the union formed the Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching (CETT) to “craft a new teacher-centered vision of teaching and the teaching profession.”
The commission produced a report the following year, which was well-received in many circles – including here at EIA – and led NEA president Dennis Van Roekel to hold a press conference in December 2011 to announce a “new three-part action agenda to strengthen the teaching profession and improve student learning,” under the heading of “Leading the Profession.”
The three parts of the action agenda were “raising the bar for entry,” “teachers ensuring great teaching,” and “providing union leadership to transform our profession.” Each item had specific and measurable goals to be reached:
* “…the implementation of at least 50 high-quality residency programs over the next several years and teacher performance assessments in at least 10 state licensure systems.”
* “…establish at least 100 new Peer Assistance and Peer Assistance and Review programs over the next three years.”
* “…train 1,000 accomplished teachers to be voices for their profession, both as instructional leaders and at all levels of policymaking.”
While this had all the earmarks of being a major NEA campaign, it still hit a hurdle at the 2012 Representative Assembly when a group of influential delegates sought to “address internal barriers to organizational engagement about teaching quality and student learning” by involving UniServ directors in teacher quality issues. The idea was a CETT recommendation. UniServ staffers are state affiliate employees partially funded by NEA to deal with labor and political issues. The delegates voted down the proposal by a substantial margin.
Van Roekel is now introducing a new campaign, called “Raise Your Hand,” designed to follow on the progress of the “Leading the Profession” campaign. But Raise Your Hand has a few things Leading the Profession lacked. It has four components instead of three, it has a logo and, best of all, it has a $3 per member special assessment budgeted for it.
The four action items for this campaign are “successful students,” “accomplished professionals,” “dynamic collaboration,” and “empowered leaders.” And, like its predecessor, each item has goals – the training of 1,000 teacher leaders, the establishment of at least 50 peer review programs (down from 100, it appears), the creation of an online professional collaboration system involving 30 state affiliates, 250 locals and 30,000 members, and the development of a leadership training curriculum for 200 selected teachers.
Whether these goals will be reached or, having been reached, will actually result in better public schools, is open to debate. It is also unclear whether these kinds of initiatives will actually generate the laudatory press NEA seems to think they deserve.
The ultimate test of NEA’s reform program won’t be an acknowledgement by the public of the union’s role in improving education. It will be an endorsement by the rank-and-file members and staffers of an approach that places teacher quality issues on an equal footing – at least – with grievance, contract and compensation issues.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 12-18:
* Union Calls Off Representation Election at Chicago Charter School. A hasty retreat.
* Staff Union Sanctions Idaho Education Association. Hostile work environment.
* It’s Thursday, So It’s Time for Another Union Resurgence. So many union turnarounds leave us dizzy.
* Card Check No Panacea. No rush to unions in Oregon.
* Payback. Tax on them. Spend on me.
3) Quote of the Week. “When the powers that be ignore you and dismiss you, then you have no other choice than to resort to civil disobedience to confront an immoral act.” – Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, explaining why she was arrested during a protest in Philadelphia. (March 12 Washington Post)
March 11, 2013
1) Text of the AFSCME-NEA-SEIU Statement of Solidarity. In an attempt to circle the wagons, the National Education Association sought a series of agreements with fellow public sector unions AFSCME and SEIU to increase cooperation and avoid inter-union squabbles. The three organizations ultimately drafted and adopted three documents: one for dispute resolution, one for representation boundaries, and one a statement of solidarity. Here is the full text of the statement of solidarity:
AFSCME-NEA-SEIU STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY
We, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the National Education Association (NEA), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), are committed to working in partnership with one another in a continuing, united effort to advance the rights and well-being of America’s workers; to revitalize and expand the American labor movement; and to establish a strong, unified and effective voice in support of social and economic justice. In furtherance of these goals, we pledge to:
• Mutually advocate and advance policies and positions designed to enhance the well-being of working Americans, their families and their communities; promote social and economic justice; and protect and extend labor union rights and protections;
• Engender respect, foster partnership and encourage collaboration between and among our affiliates and members;
• Strengthen the formal ties between our three unions, resolve expeditiously and amicably all actual and foreseeable disputes or disagreements between our unions and/or affiliates, honor the respective work jurisdictions and workplace actions of each of our three unions, and establish meaningful no-raid and jurisdictional agreements at the national and state levels;
• Assist each other in enhancing and expanding America’s middle class by countering the attacks and decline of private and public sector unions, increasing union membership and support, and initiating joint organizing projects and providing mutual assistance wherever possible;
• Stand together against our common adversaries and in joint condemnation of policies, programs, proposals, and/or actions that undermine the rights, interests, or welfare of our nation’s workers and their families.
While the documents establish a closer relationship among these unions than existed before, the lessons of the NEAFT Partnership and AFL-CIO/NEA Labor Solidarity Partnership suggest the organizations will work together when it’s easy to do so, and accomplish little when conflicts arise, particularly among their state and local affiliates. NEA has been inching closer to the rest of the organized labor movement for years, but it’s hard to argue that it has increased the teachers’ union’s power, influence or membership externally.
However, such new agreements are an acknowledgement that teachers’ unions are already the bulk of the labor movement and will own an increasing share of total union membership in the coming years. Eventually someone will ask the question: Why not have just one big union for everyone?
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 5-11:
* NEA President on the State of the Union. A rare fly-on-the-wall discussion.
* $433K Union Theft Not Reported Because of “Potential Impact on Membership.” Evidently what happens to your dues after they’re extracted from your paycheck is none of your business.
* Randi Gets 5-O’d. Unionier than thou.
* The Man Behind the Curtain. Captive audience.
* Wi-Fi WTF? Low test scores? Maybe it’s your network.
3) Quote of the Week. “We struck, we fought, we gave Karen Lewis all the power she needed, but she didn’t deliver at the bargaining table.”– Tanya Saunders-Wolffe, who is running for the presidency of the Chicago Teachers Union. (February 20 Chicago Tribune)
March 4, 2013
1) 3,000 Hawaii Faculty Leave NEA. In a move not seen since the 1970s, a direct affiliate of the National Education Association left the organization and became independent.
The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA), representing some 3,000 faculty members and other employees of the UH system, disaffiliated from NEA by a narrow 13-10 vote of its board of directors on February 23. UHPA is completely separate from the Hawaii State Teachers Association, NEA’s K-12 affiliate in the state. HSTA is unaffected by the vote.
The split is the result of chronic differences over money, support and communications, not only between UHPA and NEA, but between UHPA and HSTA, who often do not see eye-to-eye on union issues. In a February 2012 memo, UHPA executive director J.N. Musto laid out the arguments for disaffiliation that centered on value added for money spent.
“The NEA does not provide UHPA with any information, support, assistance, access to elected officials, benefits, or programs that the organization is not able to provide itself either at the same, or less, cost to UHPA,” wrote Musto, noting that over its history, UHPA had sent $2.9 million more to NEA than it had received in grants and services.
Support for disaffiliation grew to the point that NEA president Dennis Van Roekel visited UHPA in June 2012 to attempt to dissuade the board from pursuing it further. I’ll have more information on that meeting later this week. Following Van Roekel’s visit, UHPA convened a task force to make recommendations on disaffiliation. The committee did not reach a consensus, but did agree to poll the members.
Respondents favored a continuation of the NEA relationship, but at numbers just short of a majority. About 49% favored affiliation, 35% opposed, and 15% had no preference. The UHPA by-laws grant affiliation powers to the board of directors, so the disaffiliation vote is final, barring some extraordinary occurrence.
With sentiment so evenly split, NEA may still hold out hopes of reversing the decision, though it will definitely want to avoid additional internal strife over the issue. The disaffiliation does not go into effect until September 2013.
UHPA will net a quarter-million dollars annually by retaining the dues formerly sent to NEA, and NEA will see a corresponding loss of revenue, although the blow to the national union is more psychological than financial, amid the membership losses sustained over the past few years.
2) Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics since February 12:
* Even NEA Dues Cut Will Result in Dues Hike. The dodge of the “special assessment.”
* Union Treasurer Sentenced to Two Years for $433,784 Theft. Lots of questions go unanswered.
* Dissected Nurses’ Union Affiliates With AFT. Shifting alliances.
* Tower for Red Ink? Miami union’s way out of debt?
* What Do You Do With a Closed School? Buildings not really suited for anything else.
3) Quote of the Week. “When you say things like ‘we were railroaded, we were lied to’ by everybody from the governor to the janitor, those are statements of weakness, not strength. This was an awful loss for AEA in about every way it could be.” – Alabama Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham), describing the effect of the Alabama Accountability Act on the Alabama Education Association. (March 3 Birmingham News)
February 11, 2013
1) AFT Donated $6 Million to Advocacy Groups. An Education Intelligence Agency analysis of AFT’s financial disclosure report for the 2011-12 fiscal year reveals the national union contributed $6 million to advocacy groups and charities.
A $1.2 million donation to Californians Working Together, the group formed to support Prop 30, the tax increase ballot initiative, was the national union’s largest single contribution. A host of special interest groups, charities and religious organizations also received money from AFT, including the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, the Economic Policy Institute, and the University of Colorado National Education Policy Center.
These figures do not include grants and contributions made to other unions (such as Colorado WINS) or union coalitions such as the AFL-CIO. For example, AFT contributed $1,150,000 to the AFL-CIO’s State Unity Fund.
Here is an alphabetic list of the recipients of AFT’s contributions, with relevant web links. All of these were paid for with members’ dues money (the union’s federal PAC is a separate entity funded through voluntary means):
Alliance for a Better California 2012 – $500,000
Alliance for Retired Americans – $6,000
America Votes – $5,000
America Works USA – $100,000
American Constitution Society – $5,000
American Labor Museum – $5,000
American Labor Studies Center – $5,000
The American Prospect – $200,000
American Rights at Work – $25,000
Annenberg Institute for School Reform – $41,333
A. Philip Randolph Institute – $5,000
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance – $10,550
Blue Green Alliance Foundation – $160,000
Brave New Foundation – $125,000
California Community Foundation – $24,000
Campaign for America’s Future – $10,000
Center for Citizenship Education (Mongolia) – $9,155
Center for Tax and Budget Accountability – $100,000
Center for Teaching Quality – $10,000
Child Labor Coalition – $5,000
Citizens for Public Schools – $15,200
Citizens for Tax Justice – $15,000
Clergy Strategic Alliances – $96,000
Clinton Global Initiative – $250,000
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists – $5,000
Coalition of Labor Union Women – $6,000
Committee for Education Funding – $17,713
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute – $30,000
Council on Competitiveness – $10,000
CTSP Haiti – $17,000
Economic Policy Institute – $230,000
Economic Research Institute – $5,943
Educating Maryland Kids – $100,000
First Book – $15,178
Florida State Conference of the NAACP – $10,000
Freedom House – $10,000
Gamaliel Foundation – $60,000
Good Jobs First – $22,500
Healthy Schools Campaign – $12,000
Helmets to Hardhats – $7,000
In the Life Media – $5,000
Jewish Labor Committee – $10,300
Keystone Research Center – $15,000
The King Center – $5,000
Labor Project for Working Families – $50,000
La MaMa – $5,000
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights – $50,000
League of United Latin American Citizens – $17,500
Learning First Alliance – $53,964
Learning Forward – $30,000
Little Rock Nine Foundation – $5,000
Massachusetts Jobs with Justice – $28,450
The Nation Institute – $10,000
NAACP – $10,875
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund – $20,000
National Consumers League – $15,000
National Council of La Raza – $12,500
National Council of Negro Women – $5,000
National Democratic Institute – $25,000
National Labor College – $299,749
National Public Pension Coalition – $135,000
National Urban League – $5,020
Netroots Nation – $30,000
Network Education Program – $5,000
New York City Parents Union – $5,000
Ohio Unity Coalition – $7,350
Organizers in the Land of Enchantment – $24,619
OpenPlans – $10,000
Parent Teacher Home Visit Project – $46,665
The Peggy Browning Fund – $5,000
Policy Matters Ohio – $25,000
Pride at Work – $5,000
Progressive National Baptist Convention – $10,000
Rainbow PUSH Coalition – $50,000
Rebuild America’s Schools – $30,000
Save the Children – $10,000
Schott Foundation for Public Education – $10,000
Thomas B. Fordham Institute – $10,000
TransAfrica – $10,000
United States Student Association – $22,501
United Students Against Sweatshops – $5,000
United Way of the National Capital Area – $15,000
Urban Farming Inc. – $5,000
U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute – $10,000
Vermont Medical Response Team – $5,000
We Are Ohio – $209,230
WNET.org – $150,000
Working America – $505,000
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from February 5-11:
* Thunderclap Augurs New Deals Between NEA, AFT, SEIU & AFSCME. Closing ranks.
* Are You a Union Member or a Lease? A community of workers. The way East Berlin was.
* District Bullies Steal Kids’ Lunch Money. Those lawn sprinklers weren’t to help lunch vegetables grow.
* Vermont Teacher on Agency Fees. Fair share.
* Arne Duncan One-on-One with Usain Bolt? Out of their element.
3) Scheduling Note. The EIA Communiqué will be on a break until Monday, March 4. Daily updates will still appear on Intercepts.
4) Quote of the Week. “Since a teacher’s working conditions are a child’s learning conditions, attacking teachers is the same as attacking children.” – Randy Mousley, president of United Teachers of Wichita. (February 9Wichita Eagle)
February 4, 2013
1) North Dakota Becomes Fifth Merged NEA/AFT State Affiliate. The representative bodies of the North Dakota Education Association and the North Dakota Public Employees Association formally approved a merger of the two unions over the weekend. The new organization, named North Dakota United, will begin operations in September.
NDU will join teachers’ unions in Minnesota, Florida, Montana and New York as merged state affiliates of both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. About 650,000 members belong to both national unions. Wisconsin is also on the road to merger.
NDEA represents about 7,500 education employees and 1,500 retirees. NDPEA represents just about every other public sector employee, from custodians and higher education faculty to nurses and wildlife specialists. Their combined membership will be about 10,000. There are only 20,000 union members in all of North Dakota.
The decision will inevitably raise questions once again about the prospects of a national merger. Certainly having so many merged state affiliates might make the idea more appealing than it has been in the past. However, the five merged states, plus Wisconsin, were largely in favor of national merger when it came to a vote back in 1998. There probably won’t be any renewed momentum to take up that banner again until a previously anti-merger affiliate switches sides.
The only state where that scenario is plausible is Michigan – not because the Michigan Education Association and AFT Michigan have suddenly developed a deep affection for each other – but because the new right-to-work law might make the previously unthinkable seem thinkable. It happened on a smaller scale in New York when the anti-merger Buffalo Teachers Federation fell into line after threatening to go independent, and is now by all accounts content within New York State United Teachers.
It would take such a weakening of the anti-merger states, plus the diluted reasons for past opposition (such as AFL-CIO affiliation), plus renewed energy at the national level from the heir apparent to the NEA presidency, Lily Eskelsen, to gather the two-thirds secret ballot majority to make it happen. Those are still big hurdles to leap.
In the meantime, we will continue to watch for signs of external pressures pushing other NEA and AFT affiliates together, since internal momentum seems lacking.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from January 29-February 4:
* Greenhouse Gas. I’m afraid the silver linings the New York Times sees in the union membership numbers are just tinsel.
* CTA Behind the Media Scenes. This newspaper story is union pre-approved.
* Another Union Health Trust About to Go “Belly Up.” It spends more money than it brings in. Who could predict something like that would be a problem?
* Union “Benefits Review” Requires Birth Certificates, Tax Returns. Sit through a sales pitch or lose your health insurance.
* Palm Reader. Listen to the hand.
3) Quote of the Week. “We’re trying to find out who’s in the buildings and how many people are in the buildings, for the point of organizing.” – Larry Carter, president of the United Teachers New Orleans, explaining why he requested the names and contact information of teachers in 35 New Orleans charter schools. (February 4 Baton Rouge Advocate)
January 28, 2013
1) Ten Things You Should Know About Union Membership Numbers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual report on union membership last week and the news was pretty grim. While the economy added almost 2.4 million jobs in 2012, union membership was down by almost 400,000.
Digging through the data led to several more interesting discoveries.
1) Since 2008, private sector unions have lost more than 1.2 million members – almost equivalent to losing the entire rank-and-file of the Teamsters.
2) All of the government jobs lost since 2008 were added in the three-year period 2005-2008.
3) Almost half of all union members work in just seven states – California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio – though these states employ only about one-third of the U.S. workforce.
4) Union membership increased in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Of these, only five added more than 10,000 members (California, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Texas).
5) Local government (teachers, police officers, firefighters, et al.) is by far the most unionized sector of the American workforce.
6) Members of the two national teachers’ unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, comprise more than 25% of all union members in the United States, and just under half of all public sector union members.
7) About 42% of U.S. workers are 45 years of age or older. Almost 52% of union members are.
8) If unions were able to organize all the workers at Wal-Mart, by far America’s largest employer, it would only raise their share of the private sector workforce to 8.5% – less than the share they had in 2002.
9) If the trends recorded since 2000 continue, by 2051 there will be 8 million union members in the United States – 6.6% of the total workforce – and they will all work for the government.
10) Five million of them will be teachers.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from January 23-28:
* Teacher Glut Is Elementary. Schools of education keep churning out candidates for jobs that don’t exist, while shortages in specialized areas persist.
* Indianapolis Star Gives Teacher Union Troubles Front-Page Treatment. Mainstream media corroboration.
* Union Membership at 62-Year Low. In actual number of warm bodies.
* Evidently Only Money Can Light a Fire. Just the beginning.
3) Quote of the Week. “As we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of CTA, we must remember that we were founded for one reason – and one reason only – and that was to engage in politics. We were founded to engage in the political process in order to create an organized system of public instruction and to elevate the profession of teaching in California.” – Carolyn Doggett, executive director of the California Teachers Association, in a January 27 speech to the union’s State Council.
January 22, 2013
1) NEA Dues Keeping the Lights On in Indiana. Teachers in Mississippi or New Mexico who are paying dues to the National Education Association should have a reasonable expectation that their money is paying for utilities and building maintenance at NEA headquarters in Washington, DC as well as the national union’s regional offices. But should they have an expectation that their dues money is doing the same for the Indiana State Teachers Association?
Back in 2009, the ISTA insurance trust collapsed under the weight of high-risk investments. Coupled with other financial difficulties, it drove the Indiana affiliate deep into the red, requiring the establishment of an NEA trusteeship. To bail out ISTA, NEA formed NEA Properties, Inc. (NEAPI) to purchase the real estate and buildings owned by ISTA. Since then, ISTA has been leasing space in its own buildings, paying NEA $1.5 million in rent in the 2010-11 fiscal year.
This seemed to be an adequate solution to ISTA’s problems, but it failed to account for the union’s continued budget shortfalls due to large losses in membership. ISTA ran a $4.2 million deficit in 2010-11 and was a cumulative $12.6 million in the red at the time. We can safely assume things haven’t improved.
Even more distressing for NEA is the news that NEAPI is losing money as well, reporting a $111,000 deficit in 2010-11. An examination of NEA’s financial disclosure report shows where some of the money has been going:
Electricity – $205,609
Property management – $198,752
Security – $96,316
Building repair and remodeling – $83,536
Custodial services – $74,008
Plumbing/HVAC repair – $47,671
Legal – $45,754
Monthly steam supply – $39,364
Maintenance – $36,100
Water – $30,814
Accounting – $27,908
Property taxes – $25,060
Concierge services – $22,961
Sprinkler repair – $17,655
Unspecified building supplies – $11,915
Pest control – $9,305
Door/glass repair – $8,437
Hygiene supplies – $7,892
Window cleaning – $6,975
Space planner – $6,458
These items alone total over $1 million, and when coupled with insurance costs and depreciation, leave NEAPI at a loss.
The Indiana problem would be relatively small potatoes if all was well elsewhere. But if ISTA is still wholly dependent on its NEA bailout after almost four years, what does that portend for staggering state affiliates in Wisconsin, South Carolina, Michigan and a lot of other places? Will NEA use national dues to pay for exterminators in Texas, janitors in New Jersey and handymen in Iowa? Can it even afford to?
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from January 15-22:
* RIP CQE. Communities for Quality Education goes unfunded.
* More Than You’ll Ever Need to Know About Lily Eskelsen. Accession announcement.
* Class Size Reduction the Natural Way. Demographics and destiny.
* Wisconsin Victory Only Leads to Next Battlefield. Keep your head.
* Silver Lining in NYC. No deal better than toothless deal.
* Union of 1% Same as Those of Other 99%. Congolese airlines and Chinese soul food.
3) Quote of the Week. “America’s educational system contains enough empty platitudes and kitten posters. It’s time to fill our students with some real content, create some connections, and see what sticks.” – Jessica Lahey, English and Latin teacher at the Crossroads Academy in New Hampshire. (January 16 Coming of Age in the Middle)
January 14, 2013
1) NEA Gave $15 Million to Advocacy Groups. An Education Intelligence Agency analysis of NEA’s financial disclosure report for the 2011-12 fiscal year reveals the national union contributed just under $15 million to a wide variety of advocacy groups and charities. The total was about $3.8 million lower than the previous year.
The expenditures fall into broad categories of community outreach grants, charitable contributions, and payments for services rendered. In this list, EIA has deliberately omitted spending such as media buys, or payments to pollsters or consultants that have no obvious ideological component. The grants range from $4,568,000 to We Are Ohio, down to smaller grants to organizations such as People for the American Way, Media Matters and Netroots Nation.
Here is an alphabetic list of the 94 recipients of NEA’s contributions, with relevant web links. All of these were paid for with members’ dues money (the union’s federal PAC is a separate entity funded through voluntary means):
AFL-CIO – $1.15 million
Alliance for Justice – $5,000
America Votes – $376,100
America Works – $250,000
American Bridge 21st Century – $200,000
American Constitution Society – $10,000
Asian American Justice Center – $10,000
Be the Change – $100,000
Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairs – $10,000
California Community Foundation – $6,000
Campaign for America’s Future – $20,000
Center for American Progress – $35,000
Center for Economic Organizing – $12,800
Center for Teacher Leadership – $63,178
Center for Teaching Quality – $120,767
Citizens Helping Heroes – $10,000
Citizens for Tax Justice – $15,000
Committee for Charlotte 2012 – $250,000
Committee for Education Funding – $17,713
Committee on States – $25,000
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute – $55,000
Council of State Governments – $6,000
Daily Kos – $30,000
Democracy Alliance – $235,000
Democratic GAIN – $10,000
Economic Policy Institute – $250,000
Educating Maryland Kids – $200,000
Education Writers Association – $10,500
Excelencia in Education – $10,000
Fair Districts Now – $478,000
Fair Elections Legal Network – $50,000
Good Jobs First – $15,000
Health Care for America Now! – $125,000
HEROS, Inc. – $100,000
Hip Hop Caucus Education Fund – $25,000
Idahoans for Responsible Education Reform – $1,042,000
Japanese American Citizens League – $5,000
Kansas Values Institute – $49,950
Keep It Local North Dakota – $135,000
Learning First Alliance – $91,200
Learning Forward – $25,000
Marylanders for Marriage Equality – $50,000
MediaMatters – $100,000
Montanans for Fiscal Accountability – $25,555
Moving South Dakota Forward – $225,000
NAACP – $11,000
National Action Network – $25,000
National Black Justice Coalition – $20,000
National Hispanic Leadership Institute – $25,000
National Public Pension Coalition – $135,000
National Women’s Law Center – $10,000
Netroots Nation – $15,000
New Hampshire Unity Table Fund – $50,000
Ohio Democratic Party – $150,000
Opportunity to Learn Action Fund – $300,000
Parent Teacher Home Visit Project – $58,353
Partnership for 21st Century Skills – $35,000
Patriot Majority PAC – $100,000
People for the American Way – $135,000
Progressive Majority – $50,284
Project New West – $140,000
Protect Maine Votes – $81,500
Public Education Defense Fund – $1 million
Quality Education and Jobs – $50,000
Republican Main Street Partnership – $25,000
Ripon Society – $10,000
Robert Russa Moton Museum – $50,000
SEIU – $15,333
Taxpayers in Support of Public Education – $30,000
TIDES Foundation – $100,000
U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute – $100,000
Voces de la Frontera – $23,515
We Are Ohio – $4,568,000
Wellstone Action – $30,586
Many of the largest donations from NEA headquarters went to state ballot initiative groups, but these do not constitute the sum total of the national union’s spending on state political measures.
For example, the national union sent millions of dollars directly to state affiliates to fund various activities, including $5 million to the California Teachers Association. Much of this money was also then directed to initiative campaigns.
All of these figures were culled from NEA’s disclosure report for the U.S. Department of Labor. To see the full report for yourself, follow this link, then type “000-342” in the File Number box at the top of the page.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from January 8-14:
* CLAS Back in Session? What can happen when you replace bubble tests.
* Maryland Bill Would Make Agency Fees Mandatory. Forget collective bargaining.
* Means, Motive and Opportunity. What it takes to get ahead.
* Guns, Laws and Education. Many districts already have the power to allow armed adults in schools, including Connecticut.
* Left Turn on Main Street. RINOs become R-not-even-INOs?
3) Scheduling Note. The next e-mail communiqué will appear on Tuesday, January 22.
4) Quote of the Week. “Throwing money at it doesn’t always solve the problems, but it does help a little bit.” – Wes Fifield, president of the Upland Unified school board in California. (January 3 Los Angeles Daily News)
January 7, 2013
The 2012 EIA Public Education Quotes of the Year
EIA is proud to present the 2012 Public Education Quotes of the Year, in countdown order. Enjoy!
10) “The numbers of teachers are going up faster than are the numbers of students. That is a ticking time bomb. … With an economic downturn, the troubles with our economy, it’s hard to picture how school districts can sustain that increase and pay for it. I don’t see it as sustainable.”- Richard Ingersoll, a professor in the Graduate School of Education and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. (July 26 Detroit News)
9) “We bear a lot of responsibility for this. We were focused – as unions are – on fairness and not as much on quality.” – Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, commenting on the union’s traditional defense of seniority over performance. (August 18 New York Times)
8) “Trust me, if you can cut such deals with Randi Weingarten, who is president of the American Federation of Teachers, you can do them with Vladimir Putin and Bibi Netanyahu.” – Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times columnist, explaining why he supported U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for Secretary of State. (November 27 New York Times)
7) “The office had a longstanding common practice of using profanity long before he got there.” – Josh Gruenberg, attorney for former San Diego Education Association executive director Craig Leedham, who was dismissed in part because of his style of dealing with employees. (May 21 Voice of San Diego)
6) “I find you and your organization wholly ineffectual and ineffective. Teachers cannot sit idly by facing financial ruin while you enjoy your wine and chocolates.” – Eric D. Przykuta, president of the Lancaster Central Teachers Association, in a February 17 letter to New York State United Teachers president Richard Iannuzzi.
5) “We had a very aggressive savings plan.”- Lynne Webb, president of the United School Employees of Pasco, explaining to a judge how she and her husband, former Broward Teachers Union president Pat Santeramo, who was indicted for racketeering and money laundering, were able to put away more than half a million dollars in CDs while paying off a $574,000 vacation home in just three years. (July 13 Miami Herald)
4) “I think people need reassurance that their tax dollars aren’t getting wasted, that something good is happening [at school] that can be measured. I understand that ferocious need, coupled with falling test scores, with the difficulty in removing teachers who aren’t performing and the unions’ unwillingness for a long time to look at how to change things – all those things made us ripe for the picking. Or the kicking.” – Rebecca Mieliwocki, 2012 National Teacher of the Year. (May 16 Los Angeles Times)
3) ”If I’m a parent in poverty I have no clue because I’m trying to struggle and live day to day. The idea of parents making decisions simply based on choice is the abandonment of public schools.” – Michael Walker Jones, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Educators, commenting on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to expand school vouchers in the state. (January 23 New Orleans Times-Picayune)
2) “We feel TFA is undermining our profession. We see TFA as a vehicle for union busting … the district is hiring uncertified teachers to reduce costs.” – Diane Brown, president of United Teachers of Richmond, speaking about Teach for America two weeks after her parent union, the National Education Association, provided her and other delegates with a report that concluded, “No evidence suggests that the TFA contracts are being used to reduce teacher costs, silence union voices, or as a vehicle to bust unions.” (July 18 San Jose Mercury News)
1) ”Things will never go back to the way they were.” – from the introduction to the 2012-2014 National Education Association Strategic Plan and Budget.
December 17, 2012
1) Nothing to Say. With one event overshadowing everything else, it feels impossible to blithely move on to other topics. Since this was to be the last communiqué of 2012 anyway, let’s just call it a year and take a deep breath. Intercepts will continue to be updated daily but the next weekly communiqué will not appear until Monday, January 7. Happy Holidays, everyone.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from December 11-17:
* Who Are the Freeloaders? Why should unions have to represent non-paying non-members? Because they won’t allow competitors.
* Teachers’ Union Supports Full Employment… for Animators. Propaganda cartoons are all the rage. Here’s what’s next.
* Education Bar Graphs of the Year. Something very important to keep in mind when you read the results of an opinion poll.
* I Don’t Know. I suspect I’m not the only one.
* Ask and Ye Shall Receive. A neglected story gets un-neglected.
3) Quote of the Week. “As opposed to your criticism that it’s ‘crass,’ ‘sophomoric’ and ‘garbage,’ the cartoon conveys these political ideas through the tools of fairy tale and animation, which by nature are allegorical and use caricature and visual metaphor for satirical effect.” – Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, defending the union’s recent cartoon in a letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. (December 10 San Francisco Chronicle)
December 10, 2012
1) Are NEA, SEIU and AFSCME Working on “No Raid” Agreement? It’s no secret that the National Education Association is working more closely than ever before with its counterparts in organized labor. NEA, SEIU and AFSCME teamed up to fund a series of ads targeting key lawmakers in the fiscal cliff negotiations and they are the driving force behind today’s “day of action” rallies in a number of cities.
While three of the largest public employee unions in the nation are cooperating on external communications and operations, they are also crafting an internal agreement that would establish a détente over competition for members. A group of high-level NEA officials met with teams from SEIU and AFSCME last week to put together a deal that would establish jurisdictions for the individual unions, similar to the arrangement NEA made with AFT after the failed attempt at national merger in 1998.
The two national teachers’ unions and many of their state affiliates made “no raid” agreements – pledges not to try to recruit the other organization’s members. There have been hiccups along the way and a number of affiliates that refused to go along, but for the most part the cutthroat competition for members is a thing of the past.
SEIU and AFSCME don’t represent teachers, but they sometimes compete with the teachers’ unions for education support employees. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be too much of a hardship for each side to agree to stay away from the other’s members. Once that’s in place, it will pave the way for all the public sector unions to cooperate more frequently and efficiently.
The days when NEA stood far apart from the broader labor movement are gone. The AFL-CIO was once shunned by NEA delegates, but now more than one-quarter of NEA members are affiliated with the labor federation. This helps NEA in projecting political power, but could hurt its “professional association” image and embroil it in issues far removed from education.
Today’s union movement is almost entirely a public sector union movement. It only stands to reason that the largest public sector union would take a larger part.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from December 4-10:
* And They Lived Happily Ever After. The moral of the story is: Don’t get mad. Get even.
* WEAC Approves Moving Forward With Merger. Suppose we get to 10 or 12 merged state affiliates. Then what?
* Teacher Misconduct Bill a Test Case for California Legislature. Moderation or tidal wave?
* Going Mobile. Reading Intercepts on your phone just got a little easier.
3) Quote of the Week. “A new, satirical video titled ‘Tax the rich: An animated fairy tale’ was created by the California Federation of Teachers, not by the California Teachers Association. Some media have confused the two organizations.” – from a December 6 California Teachers Association press release.
December 3, 2012
1) The Perks of Being a Union Executive. We tend to pay a lot of attention to what teachers’ unions spend on politics, but even that lofty amount pales in comparison to what they what they spend on themselves. Like teaching, union work is a labor-intensive enterprise. Unlike teaching, the structure of union benefits resembles an inverted pyramid, where a lot of people receive similar perks and only the lowest level employees receive standard workplace accommodations.
Wage amounts are usually public record, but are perilously difficult to pin down. What a union executive makes can be inflated in the record by sick leave accrual or severance payouts, or can be understated because of tax deferments or allowances in lieu of pay. Still, with that caveat in place, an examination of 2010-11 tax records reveals wages of the highest paid employees of the National Education Association and its state affiliates – defined here as the money reported in box 1 of a W-2 form – ranged from almost $540,000 down to less than $92,000.
Financial records also show that certain perks are common among NEA and state affiliate executives, while others are controversial even in the corporate world.
Housing allowances are prevalent. Union officers often will receive a cash payment to cover the costs of maintaining a home near union headquarters, usually located in the state capital. Some affiliates actually provide a home. Which officers receive a housing allowance and for how much varies from state to state, but it ranges from 20 percent of salary all the way down to $800 per month.
One would expect the union to cover the costs of executive travel, but some affiliates allow first-class travel and many also reimburse for the cost of companion travel – in one case up to $2,000 per year. Unions have been known to reimburse officers for home, pet and garden care while they are away on business, although it isn’t known whether these kinds of perks have survived recent budget shortfalls. Auto allowances and gas cards are also common.
A growing number of officers receive payment for annual health or social club dues and initiation fees, with one affiliate offering up to $1,000 a year in “wellness-related expenses.” A handful of affiliates also provide the president with a discretionary spending account or clothing allowances.
Accounting for these varied forms of compensation can get complicated, so some unions provide free tax preparation. At least one affiliate even offers relief if a union officer’s accumulation of previously deferred payments or leave buy-outs leads to higher tax obligations – in the form of the “gross-up” payment.
If you are unfamiliar with the term, that’s when the employer picks up the tab for the additional tax the employee will have to pay for a unusually large lump sum payment. Of course, the “gross-up” payment itself is taxable, so it is often made large enough to help cover that extra tax as well. The practice has come under fire in corporate America, so it’s ironic to see it turn up in a union.
Since much of this alternative compensation is hidden, it will be difficult to discern how much it will be affected by membership losses and budget cuts. When revenues can’t cover payroll, union staffers are laid off. But executive officers are elected. Some have accepted pay freezes, but I haven’t heard any talk of rolling back these kinds of benefits. If done, it will be done quietly, so as not to alert the rank-and-file to their existence in the first place.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from November 27-December 3:
* Graduation Stats Show Equality and Inequality. Racial gaps persist, but some states have equally bad stats across all groups.
* School Districts Ride CABs to the Poorhouse. Next big idea: payday loans!
* Tryptophan Coma at the New York Times. Thomas Friedman wasn’t the only one with goofy Cabinet suggestions.
* NEA Affiliate Staff Updates. Contract settlements are not always good news.
* Detroit President Re-Elected; Miami President Won’t Run Again. Apathy still in front.
3) Quote of the Week. “There’s a lot of cynicism in labor about the capacity of ordinary, working-class people to run their unions. Leaders think those people should have good lives, but they don’t think they have the capacity to do big things. Even among ‘progressive’ unions, democracy is not high on the list of must-haves. That has really hurt our movement.” – Mark Brenner, director of the pro-union publication Labor Notes. (November 30 In These Times)
November 26, 2012
1) Important Message for E-Mail Subscribers. For more than 15 years I have been distributing the weekly EIA Communiqué using 1997 methods – bulk e-mail from a list maintained by hand. This required a lot of list maintenance on my part and sometimes difficult dealings with AOL and its spam restrictions. It got to the point where I stopped recruiting new e-mail subscribers in the hope new readers would instead migrate to the daily blog.
Happily I have managed to cut the Gordian knot. With EIA’s recently updated web site and some techno-maneuvering, it is now possible for me to disseminate the weekly communiqué via the automatic e-mail service provided by Feedburner. This will expand the content possibilities for the e-mail newsletter while greatly reducing the time I spend administering the list.
It will, however, require one bit of action on your part. Sometime before the next communiqué appears on Monday, December 3, each current e-mail subscriber will receive an e-mail from Feedburner with “Education Intelligence Agency” or “EIA Communiqué” in the subject line. In the body of the e-mail will be an embedded link for you to click, or cut and paste into your web browser’s URL address window.
Click the link and you will verify your subscription and continue to receive the newsletter via e-mail as usual – once a week, no more and no less.
Don’t click the link and you will be unsubscribed from future e-mail communiqués.
This verification measure is a bit of a pain, but necessary to ensure that each subscriber has asked to be placed on the list. Otherwise Feedburner and similar services would be overrun with spammers and useless for the rest of us.
If you don’t receive your Feedburner e-mail by next Monday, check your spam filter and/or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for helping out with this housekeeping. Next week we’ll return to news.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from November 20-26:
* Crimson vs. Indigo. Multiple experiments in one-party rule.
* WEAC Looking for New Direction. The Peterson Plan.
* Hawaii Teachers “Work to Rule.” Next best thing to a strike.
* Black Friday 1940. The scariest day of the year.
* Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! Bridging the gaps.
3) Quote of the Week. “I don’t think they should sit on the sidelines. I think they should do what they do when they give to the Lyric Opera. They don’t go to the Lyric Opera, give money and then tell the singers how to sing. Give your money and walk away, buddies.” – Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, when asked what the backers of Mayor Emanuel’s school reform agenda should do. (November 20 Chicago Sun-Times)
Um, they may not tell the singers how to sing, but they have a big say in what they sing, don’t they?
November 19, 2012
1) Will Marching Against Poverty Restore NEA’s Bottom Line? The National Education Association is looking for a way out of a bind. As it proved once again this year, NEA’s main avenue of success is its ability to win elections through the massive application of committed activists and cold cash. Its problem is that political defeats are costly, but victories are often only temporarily beneficial. The 2008 elections did lead to stimulus packages and edujobs bills, but they also led to the worst four-year membership losses in NEA’s long existence. So while favorable results at the ballot box in 2012 are helpful, they don’t guarantee smooth sailing ahead for the union.
The Occupy movement, the Wisconsin protests, the Chicago teacher strike and the 2012 voter turnout, combined with the accession of John Stocks as NEA’s executive director, have led the union’s officers to adopt an approach they believe will establish NEA not only as a powerful labor union, but as a leader in the broader realm of social issues.
Stocks unveiled this move with his “social justice patriot” speech at the NEA representative assembly last July, but it didn’t start there:
Never in the history of our nation have public schools been under such relentless attack. Never in the history of teacher unionism has there been a greater urgency to rethink strategy.
To meet these challenges, our public schools and our teacher unions should set two key goals: survival and justice. Furthermore, these goals are inextricably linked. Our system of public education and our teacher unions will not survive unless they more forthrightly address issues of social justice.
Those words didn’t come from John Stocks in 2012; they came from Bob Peterson, now the president of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association, in 1999. Peterson was, and is, a proponent of the concept of “social justice unionism,” which he described as “part of a broader movement for social progress rather than merely focused on narrow self-interest.” Stocks spent much of his career in Wisconsin and appears to want to apply these themes nationally.
The value of social justice unionism as a philosophy is a matter for academics. I am only interested in its practical application for a union that needs to increase membership and ameliorate budget deficits. We already have a few clues about how this will work.
For one thing, NEA is trying to get out of the business of simply providing cash grants to friendly organizations and will insist on joint efforts in exchange for financial support. Additionally the union will hold a “dialogue on social justice” next month. This is to have the dual goal of placing NEA firmly in the civil rights picture while activating minority members in the union ranks.
The long-term strategy is to recruit new members and increase the participation of existing members through social justice issues. In fact, NEA organizers have been told to stop emphasizing the union’s services, liability insurance and workplace protections and instead focus on “core values.”
A large number of NEA staffers have been reassigned to training state and local officers in organizing – a skill some have let atrophy during the decades of booming enrollment and teacher hiring. While overall staffing levels will require political work in state legislatures, NEA plans to seek out new markets in charter and online schools, early childhood education workers, and members of non-union teacher organizations.
It’s important to note that these are NEA’s plans. They face a number of obstacles internally, regardless of whether outsiders put up a fight. First, NEA’s devotion to social justice unionism does not necessarily mean it will be embraced wholeheartedly in all of its state affiliates. Changes of direction are relatively easy to map out in a DC conference room, but notoriously difficult to implement among state and local officers with agendas of their own. Ask Bob Chase.
Second, organizing a union of 3 million members around social issues may be a winning strategy as long as those issues are general and amorphous. Protecting the working class, equal rights for all, affordable health care and reducing poverty will generate widespread support. But if the specifics turn out to be in service of a narrow liberal political worldview, it will have no more success than NEA’s current strategy, and might in fact play into the hands of the union’s political opponents.
Third, positioning NEA as one of the leaders of a mass movement opens the door for other organizations to take up the “self-interest” mantle. Members might prefer a union that spends its time negotiating contracts instead of heightening climate change awareness.
NEA believes that stressing its broad social justice principles will improve its self-interests. It’s nice when those things coincide. We’ll see which one the union chooses if they don’t.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from November 13-19:
* Election Win for Charters Is Only the First Hurdle. First the ballot box, then the courtroom.
* The Wrath of Conn. Will Detroit make Chicago look like Topeka?
* Back to Reality. Union organizing isn’t what it used to be.
* Technology Marches On. Changes to the EIA web site, and perhaps to this e-mail newsletter as well. Stand by for more.
* Summary of NYSUT’s Campaign Financing. How do I elect thee? Let me count the ways.
3) Quote of the Week. “President Obama not only won this election, but so did his ideas and his values. The American people want fairness. They want everyone to pay their fair share…. But what we also have to do is to make sure that the corporations who earn billions of dollars pay some tax, and now they’re paying none.” – Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, a $1.6 billion tax-exempt organization. (November 13 PBS NewsHour)
November 12, 2012
1) Five of Eight Largest Teacher Union Locals Had Budget Deficits. An Education Intelligence Agency analysis of 2010-11 Internal Revenue Service filings reveals five of the eight largest teacher union local affiliates in the nation operated with budget deficits. Half of the 36 largest locals saw their dues revenue decrease from the previous year.
Most of these locals are either affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers, or jointly affiliated with AFT and the National Education Association. AFT’s governance structure is largely centered on its locals, just as NEA’s is centered on its state affiliates, which had their own financial troubles. The largest teachers’ union local in the U.S., the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, accumulated dues revenue of $125.5 million in 2010-11, but still ran an $11.8 million deficit due to a 12.1% increase in employee compensation costs.
The United Teachers Los Angeles, United Teachers of Dade, Broward Teachers Union, and United Educators of San Francisco were the other four top locals to experience deficits.
Other locals may have been in the black but are still on shaky ground. Figures for the Washington Teachers Union for 2010-11 were unavailable, while the Detroit Federation of Teachers’ small surplus did not cover the $1.4 million it still owed AFT.
Just like NEA’s state affiliates, a number of locals were able to achieve pension liability relief to improve their bottom lines. But high personnel costs continue to worry many locals.
EIA has posted a table on its web site listing the dues revenue of the 36 largest locals, along with their other revenues, number of employees, their total compensation, and their budget deficit status.
2) Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from November 6-12:
* Teachers’ Unions Win a Defensive Victory. Four more years.
* Gravy Train Drying Up for NEA’s Favorite Advocacy Groups? Play for pay.
* Heading for the Hills in California. The two states of California, but one is a permanent minority.
* Call Me Maybe. Two-way spam?
* Eat Your Vegetables! Voting scolds.
3) Quote of the Week. “We have the capacity to rebuild this state.” – Dean Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association, commenting on the results of Tuesday’s election. (November 8 Reuters)