Kind of a strange edu-politics story out of Maine has Gov. Paul LePage offering to spend more money on teacher training if the Maine Education Association will do the same.
“For every dollar the MEA puts up for professional development for their teachers, we’ll match it,” he said, drawing applause from those gathered at the Maine Tax Forum held at the Augusta Civic Center. “I believe they collect dues, and right now those dues go to Washington at the end of the year for political campaigns. I think the dues should be invested back in to the educators in the state of Maine.”
Even I think this is a political stunt, so I won’t spend time on the idea. I was more interested in the reaction of MEA President Chris Galgay to the reporter’s questions:
As for the governor’s challenge to match funds, Galgay wouldn’t say how much money the union collects in dues, how much is spent on training and how much goes to the national union….
“The NEA president has little control of what the states are doing,” he said. “The national association is more about me reaching out to them for support or them saying what can we do for your members in Maine.” He said most of the dues that Maine teachers pay to the national union come back to the state, but he declined to be specific about how that worked.
That’s quite a combination of poor public relations by Galgay and poor reporting. So let’s be specific.
In the 2009-10 school year, the Maine Education Association collected almost $6 million in dues for itself, and with 14,466 full-time certified members and another 4,940 full-time education support employee members, will collect roughly another $3.1 million this year to send to NEA.
Of that $3.1 million, a little more than $1 million will make its way back to Maine in the form of UniServ grants and other national assistance (well short of “most” of what is sent to the national union). If this were not done, there is no way MEA could pay the the $5.85 million to cover the salaries and benefits of its staff of about 50 and continue to operate.
As to how much MEA spends on teacher training, that is much harder to quantify. The union spent a total of $42,050 on “conferences, conventions and meetings,” some of which had to do with teacher training. and another $68,563 on local affiliate grants, some of which may have had a teacher training component. Since virtually all of MEA’s money goes to its employees and officers, we would need to know how many hours each spends on teacher training activities and then apply that percentage to the payroll costs.
This all may be academic, but there still exists some ignorance (perhaps feigned in this case) about what the primary mission of a teacher union is. Hint: It’s not teacher training.