From the Vault: May 15, 2000

The May NEA Board of Directors meeting is traditionally a busy one, it being the final meeting until the board gets together during the Representative Assembly in July. The board uses the opportunity to set the table for the RA, and a large and varied number of issues are decided.

* RA delegates better bring their wallets to Chicago, because President Bob Chase set the PAC fund-raising goal at $1 million this year. That amount would require a donation of more than $100 per delegate.

* NEA’s budget for 2000-01 totals nearly $233.7 million, an increase of almost six percent from this year. The 2001-02 budget totals $239.3 million.

* NEA will increase the size of its staff for the first time in a while, expecting to add seven positions over the two-year span of the budget. The additional employees, coupled with programmed increases in salaries and benefits for existing staffers, will add about $6.5 million to the NEA payroll and benefits over the next two years.

* NEA will indeed introduce a new by-law before the RA that would assess each member an additional $5 per year for the next five years, to be placed into a special fund. Sixty percent of the money would be available for state affiliates to use for ballot initiatives and/or legislative battles. The other 40 percent will be spent on a media campaign to be directed by NEA HQ. NEA currently has about a half-million dollars remaining in its contingency budget.

* A long and confusing debate ensued over the language of the new resolution concerning performance pay. EIA does not have the text of the resolution as it currently reads, but at this point it includes language that accepts performance pay based on measures such as national certification. The resolution apparently allows for evaluations by administrators to play a marginal role. The board voted to delete language that would have allowed standardized tests to be used to award performance pay. Standardized tests are part of the Denver performance pay pilot project. If the RA passes the resolution as currently written, the Denver project would be contrary to NEA policy.

* Things are even more confusing in Puerto Rico, where even though thousands of NEA members defected to the AFT affiliate, and the remainder of the NEA affiliate disaffiliated and became independent, NEA will still offer its services to island teachers. Beginning in the fall, teachers in Puerto Rico can join NEA directly for $45 per year.

* The board also voted to introduce a new by-law (to be voted on at next year’s RA) to adjust the state merger guidelines. As the guidelines stand now, a merged state affiliate splits its national dues based on the ratio of NEA members to AFT members prior to merger. In Minnesota, for example, NEA gets 65 percent of the national dues and AFT 35 percent. The new guidelines would maintain that arrangement only for five years, or a 3 percent growth in that affiliate’s membership, whichever came first. Afterwards, the split between NEA and AFT would be 50-50.

* AFT is asking for some kind of indication that NEA is still moving toward a national merger. Top union officials are negotiating over an extension of their no-raid agreement, which prevents either union from trying to decertify the other’s locals in collective bargaining states. The problem for NEA is how to reopen the merger can of worms. Last year’s merger-related votes and NEA’s own delegate survey reveal somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of RA delegates don’t want a merger under any circumstances. That means in order to achieve a two-thirds majority, any plan has to gain the votes of four out of every five remaining delegates (forget it, Bob). NEA now wants to put together an advisory council made up of state affiliate officials from both pro-merger and anti-merger states. This sounds strangely similar to the plan proposed at the 1998 RA by then-Illinois Education Association President Bob Haisman. The pro-merger delegations organized to vote the Haisman plan down by a 53%-47% margin.

* Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts will receive NEA’s “Friend of Education” award this year.