NEA Active Membership Actually Behind Where It Was 20 Years Ago

The National Education Association may soon find itself in a world where it has to recruit and enlist every one of its new members. It does not seem well-suited to the task, and a look at its recent history reveals that even with the added boost of agency fee laws, its active membership numbers are lower than they were 20 years ago, once mergers are taken into account.

1997 was the last year in which there were no merged NEA/AFT state affiliates. NEA total membership was 2,376,140. The union’s most recent membership numbers total 2,963,540 – a gain of 587,400.

But most of that gain was simply due to adding AFT members to the rolls. In essence, their national dues continued to flow to AFT, and the dues of any new members post-merger were split 50-50 between NEA and AFT. I’ve reviewed the one-year “gains” of NEA’s five state affiliates immediately after merger was consummated…

Florida – 53,045
Minnesota – 24,873
Montana – 2,462
North Dakota – 1,538
New York – 350,588

…which total 432,506 members, but I give NEA credit for all new members – not half – since those mergers.

This still reduces NEA’s total membership gain since 1997 to 154,894. Well, a gain’s a gain, right?

Except total membership numbers include retirees and students – folks who don’t work in the public school system, receive no direct services, and pay a nominal amount in dues. Since 1997, their numbers increased by 162,957.

That leaves NEA with 8,063 fewer active members of its own than it had before AFT joined the ranks.

Since there are about 500,000 more public school teachers than there were 20 years ago, it’s clear that NEA has been dwindling gradually since the Clinton Administration. To think the union can turn things around in the current political climate is irrational optimism on a grand scale.


NEA’s Future in One Statistic

If you’d like to know how the National Education Association as a whole will be affected by an adverse U.S. Supreme Court decision in the agency fee case Janus v. AFSCME, look no further than this statistic.

In 2016, NEA membership in agency fee states increased by a combined 36,435 active members. In states without agency fees, NEA lost 24,573 active members.


It Was 20 Years Ago Today

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Education Intelligence Agency.

I could wax nostalgic, but why? As I look at the first official EIA Communiqué from June 21, 1997 it doesn’t look much different from what I might write today:

The following information is the latest from the California Teachers Association’s June 12-13 Board of Directors meeting.

Infighting. Now that there is “money available” in the state budget, CTA is upset with the school administrators and the school boards association. In the words of one director, these groups are jumping in with “a laundry list of priorities for the money that does not include adequate compensation for those of us who actually deliver the product — the teachers.” The “product” referred to is not educated students, but taxpayer money.

Who’s your buddy? CTA is crowing about a recent phone call from the Governor’s office to CTA headquarters seeking support for an unnamed piece of legislation. “We have never had the governor’s office admit that we even existed before!” exclaimed one director. CTA Governmental Relations claims that this “certainly did not happen in a vacuum since we have consciously been making efforts to open up doors that have been traditionally closed to us for quite some time (read that as Republican).” Last year, CTA donated $10,000 to help retire Gov. Wilson’s inaugural debt.

Initiative wars begin. The board approved the expenditure of $250,000 to conduct polling and focus group research on the issues raised by the so-called “anti-labor” initiatives now working their way through the process. Polling of CTA members should take place before the end of the summer.

CTAj Mahal. The schematic design of the new CTA headquarters building in Burlingame has been approved. The board expects it to be up by August 1999. The first upward boost to the $12 million estimate has already occurred. The board now says “the $12,000,000 price tag is for construction costs only. There will be additional expenses incurred with the need for additional furniture and furnishings.”

Post 208 maneuvers. CTA will consider a pilot project “to explore the benefits of a direct-mail program to Association members in selected target races.”

So I press on. The teachers’ unions will outlast me, though some think it might be a photo finish.


NEA’s PR Machine

Each NEA member contributes to the union’s Media Fund, which is spent on national communications projects and grants to state affiliates. In the just completed school year, NEA sent $886,700 to seven affiliates in the following amounts:

Florida Education Association – $200,000
Wisconsin Education Association Council – $186,000
Oklahoma Education Association – $175,000
South Carolina Education Association – $98,200
NEA Rhode Island – $92,500
NEA New Mexico – $85,000
Arizona Education Association – $50,000

The national portion was spent in numerous ways, but these particular expenditures will probably be of most interest to outsiders:

To confront ongoing attacks on public education, NEA continued our partnership with Media Matters for America, which supports a team dedicated to monitoring, fact-checking, and improving national media coverage of education issues. They also produced a “map” of the interconnections of the far-right infrastructure dedicated to the privatization of our public schools—making it far easier to explain how mega-donors like the Walton Family Foundation and others are funding groups to release pro-privatization research, the pundits who promote those findings and finally, the groups that implement the work on the ground.

NEA also partnered with Netroots Nation, the country’s largest gathering of progressive activists and journalists, to promote NEA’s issue advocacy on charter accountability, equity, and other key education issues.

National media funds supported prominent positioning for NEA at the 2017 Education Writers Association (EWA) national conference held in Washington D.C. in June. This year’s conference featured NEA leaders and voices who led a discussion of “A New Era for Education and the Press.” EWA’s National Seminar is the largest annual gathering of journalists on the education beat.


Union Shuts Down the Type of Charter It Claims to Support

Members of the Haverhill Education Association in Massachusetts voted not to approve the renewal of the Silver Hill Horace Mann Charter School’s charter, even though most of them don’t work there.

Rather than take you on a  deep dive into Massachusetts charter school law, let’s stick with its intent, that the support of a teacher majority is necessary for a charter renewal to go forward. In previous years, this meant a majority of teachers at the school.

This time, however, the local union president – “after consulting with state education officials and the Massachusetts Teachers Association” – interpreted that provision to mean a majority of all the teachers in the district. They voted 246 to 114 to deny the application.

School officials say that teachers working at Silver Hill favored renewal.

The ostensible reason for rejecting the charter was that Silver Hill enrolls fewer Hispanics than the district average. Silver Hill counters that the district won’t provide funding for additional English Language Learner staffers.

HEA floated a solution to Silver Hill in a June 2 letter:

We request that you take new measures to address the above described inequities in student population distribution. A suggestion is for the lottery to be weighted towards economically disadvantaged applicants, with for example each such applicant getting two chances rather than one. Such a lottery system would still meet the statutory requirement of a blind lottery. Regardless of the measures that you may introduce, we request that any such measures have a reasonable expectation of resulting in significant demographic changes. The measures that were described in your letter and in your annual reports have not succeeded to achieve this end.

Silver Hill correctly noted that rigging the lottery was illegal, prompting HEA to admit that “the Silver Hill Horace Mann Charter lottery complies with all applicable laws and cannot be legally altered.”

You also need to know that Massachusetts has two types of charter schools – Commonwealth and Horace Mann. The Massachusetts Teachers Association web site describes the differences this way:

Commonwealth charter schools are privately run, publicly funded schools with no local oversight. They are funded by diverting dollars from local school districts.

…Although each school has to be considered on its merits, the MTA has historically supported Horace Mann Charter Schools as long as they are welcomed by the community and as long as compensation and working conditions for staff are bargained in good faith.

Lesson learned for charter schools “acceptable” to the unions: your status is temporary.


Better Late Than Never

Each year I gather the financial information from NEA’s state affiliates and publish it in a table. Because the source figures are derived from each union’s filings with the IRS, the information is always a year old.

This year’s posting was held up for a long time because the tax-exempt return of the South Carolina Education Association was unavailable. But I finally got hold of it and have updated the table to reflect the newer data. You can find on EIA’s Affiliate Finances page.

For those strictly interested in South Carolina, SCEA took in $2,115,923 during the 2014-15 school year, more than 34% of which came from NEA national headquarters. SCEA ran a small deficit of $41,508 and maintained net assets of almost $1.1 million, which is relatively good for its size.

SCEA’s highest paid employee was executive director Roger Smith, who made $122,467. No contractor received more than $100,000.

I’ve already begun gathering numbers from 2016, but considering this type of delay, it could be many months before you see them.