NEA Representative Assembly 2016: Imaginary Numbers

Didn’t fool me once, shame on you for trying anyway.

Didn’t fool me twice, shame on me for thinking anyone cared.

On the opening day of the National Education Association Representative Assembly the union released its overall membership numbers as of June 16, 2016. Here’s the slide with the figures for all categories:

This was met with cheers and attaboys and, as you can see from the caption, were cited as the “results of your hard work.” An increase of 30,252 active members is quite an achievement in a single year.

Except that it’s off a bit. Quite a bit. Here’s the slide from last year’s RA in Orlando, with the membership numbers as of June 18, 2015.

If you compare the two sets of numbers by category you find that the number of active certified increased by only 6,838 in 2016 and the number of active ESP by 1,004. With the number of active life members decreasing by 834 (not 578), it results in an increase in total active members of 7,008 – not 30,252.

So what? It’s still an increase, right? Hooray!

Except as you can see from the 2015 slide, last year’s numbers were also reported as an increase, and they turned out to be a decrease.

So if we look at two years of extraordinary effort and self-professed organizing results, we get not the combined increase of 41,336 active members NEA reported to its own delegates and state affiliate representatives, but a loss of 8,846 active members.

I think it highly likely that NEA experienced an overall increase in membership during the 2015-16 school year, due to the resumption of steady teacher and support employee hiring. But I expect the increase will turn out to be small, as the numbers in the weak affiliates mostly offset the gains in places like California and New York.

I also know that NEA can continue to report huge growth in membership if it continues to revise the previous year’s numbers downward, after everyone has forgotten what they were.