Greetings from the National Education Association Representative Assembly at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, where the convention center authorities “do not have any relationship with any organized labor union or other collective bargaining organization.”
This will undoubtedly help keep NEA’s costs down as it weathers its own financial storms. The convention officially opens tomorrow, but this morning there was the annual open hearing on the union’s strategic plan and budget.
NEA presents two-year budgets to the delegates, and in odd-numbered years presents modifications. This can cause a lot of confusion because last year’s projections for next year are compared with this year’s projections for next year, as well as this year’s reality. This allows NEA secretary-treasurer Becky Pringle to put a happy face on some sad numbers.
“We are still losing members,” she told the 150 or so delegates who attended, “but we are not losing as many members as we projected in the budget last year. So give yourselves a round of applause!”
She credited this relative victory to NEA’s organizing efforts, but mostly it was due to an overly pessimistic projection made last year.
So NEA has about $6.6 million on hand that it wasn’t counting on. The delegates had plenty of ideas about how to spend that money, but it turns out it was already used to rescind projected cuts to salaries and benefits for NEA officers and staff. The modified 2013-14 budget for that line-item is $3.8 million higher than originally adopted for that year. The “outside services” line-item was also revised upward by more than $3.1 million. There goes your windfall.
For once the delegates seem to agree that there’s an awful lot of song-and-dance about the NEA budget, but it serves an important purpose to them and to the general public by providing the national membership numbers that really matter – active full-time equivalents producing revenue for the union.
A visit to teachers’ unions’ web sites will tell you that NEA has 3 million members and AFT 1.5 million. But they don’t have 4.5 million members between them. More than 600,000 belong to both unions, but they don’t pay double dues. NEA has 256,000 retiree members, who are important as advocates but provide only 1 percent of the budget. Ditto for the 62,000 student members, who add less than $1 million. NEA has 47,000 life members, who paid a single fee back in the old days and now contribute no money.
The life blood of NEA is employed, full-time teachers, professionals and support personnel. For the school year 2013-14, NEA now projects the number of those folks, full-time equivalent, will be just barely over 2 million, less than 1.7 million of them teachers.
“We lost members this year. We will continue to lose members next year,” said Pringle, adding, “We are worried, most especially about our large affiliates.”
That’s worry well placed. Fiscally robust large state affiliates help keep the perennially struggling small affiliates in the South and Mountain states afloat. Private sector industrial unions have managed to survive, but not thrive, by taking more dues from fewer members, but only increased public sector hiring and exclusive representation provisions will reverse the membership tide for the teachers’ unions.