Greetings from Washington DC, where I will be reporting from the floor of the National Education Association Representative Assembly all this week. The proceedings officially open tomorrow, but today was given over to an open hearing for the delegates on the union’s strategic plan and budget.
Before I delve into that presentation, I find that I am one of the few people who bothers to check to see what action was taken to fulfill the demands of last year’s delegates. You would think after all the time and effort that go into the new business items (NBIs) created by delegates there would be more interest in their outcomes.
Last year, delegates approved NBI 37: “NEA will investigate and inform its members about the anti-public education agenda behind the ill-informed intrusion of billionaires on education.”
In response, NEA conducted webinars and workshops on these people, but somehow failed to mention the amazing extent of the “intrusion.”
NBI 56 called on the NEA leadership to “work with the local and state affiliates to promote and plan ONE powerful, positive, public action for the NEA RA delegates to participate in at some point during the 2012 RA.”
The union decided no action would be taken due to budget constraints.
NBI 20 asked NEA to consider action to “boycott Koch Industries and Georgia Pacific paper products and use current means of communication to encourage affiliates to support an NEA nationwide boycott.”
As predicted, the NEA Executive Committee decided against taking any action.
There was one other NBI from last year that needs special attention, so I will provide the details in the next blog post.
Back to the budget. The presentation by NEA Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle confirmed the details reported in the May 29 EIA Communiqué – large losses in members and revenues, which Pringle described as “devastating.” The membership slide was displayed graphically in this, er, membership slide:
The slide shows an actual and projected loss of 287,000 active teachers and 21,000 ESPs over the period 2010-14. That’s full-time equivalent, which means the number of actual souls who are no longer NEA members is higher.
This required a $65 million budget reduction over that same time period, depicted on this slide:
NEA made cuts in personnel and programs and reorganized departments and functions to close the budget gap. “There is no question that we have to change,” Pringle said.
Last year, Pringle called the NEA budget “a new reality.” She tweaked the theme this year by titling the new budget “Leading in Our New Reality.” But once the time came for comments from the delegates present, she learned they all had one philosophy in common:
Approximately 30 delegates asked questions or made comments (many more were shutout as time expired) and all but one complained about specific line-item cuts to things they favored. By far the largest areas of concern were the minority affairs programs and the decision to replace the Resolutions Committee winter hearing with a virtual meeting. More than half the speakers addressed one or both of those issues.
Only Arlene Inouye, the treasurer of United Teachers Los Angeles, asked the committee and the delegates to keep costs down, as the members were not apt to look kindly on too much spending.
One delegate asked why dues couldn’t be raised, since the union was advocating for tax increases in state legislatures. Pringle replied that the dues formula is set in the by-laws, and can’t be altered without a by-law amendment, which has to be submitted months in advance of the convention. She also revealed that a status quo budget would have required a dues increase of $14 per member.
“We believe we should fund our expenses with the revenue provided by that by-law,” Pringle said.