NEA “Sequesters” $10 Million For Use in State Battles

Each active member of the National Education Association contributes $20 annually to the union’s special funds. Twelve dollars of this is deposited in the Ballot Measures/Legislative Crises Fund, which is used to support the union agenda at the state level.

Unused money rolls over year after year, and NEA projects it will have about $77 million available for 2017-18. Any large contribution requires the authorization of the union’s board of directors, but the board recently approved a $10 million “sequester” from the fund.

The use of the word isn’t entirely clear, but I believe it allows the nine-member NEA Executive Committee to send up to $10 million from the fund anywhere it chooses without further authorization from the board, which meets only five times a year – and one of those meetings is virtual.

NEA affiliates have already faced legislative crises in the form of right-to-work or collective bargaining legislation in Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire and Iowa, and lost three of those battles. I don’t know if other state legislatures are planning similar challenges to the union’s clout, but they can expect an immediate flood of opposition money if they do.

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Mulgrew Denies Everything

Three weeks ago I wrote a detailed column on the finances of New York State United Teachers and its New York City affiliate, the United Federation of Teachers.

Of all the sentences in that column, this one above all others seems to have struck a nerve:

UFT owes NYSUT almost $11 million for back dues, and $4 million of that is 90 to 180 days past due.

Last night the UFT executive board met, and UFT president Michael Mulgrew said this (paraphrased by a board member who attended):

Says there is fake news about UFT being two months behind on dues. Says we are never behind on dues. In January city collects them and we don’t get them until March. We’ve always been on time. We have solidified financial shape of union. People who’d hurt us start investigations that we pay for.

I’ll allow that my use of the present tense in my sentence cannot account for events more recent than the 2016 documents I have. So it is entirely possible that UFT has since paid its dues to NYSUT.

The assertion that UFT is “never behind on dues” and is always on time is simply inaccurate. And Mulgrew’s explanation for the dues transmittal delay doesn’t jibe with NYSUT’s disclosure report, or UFT’s own.

This is NYSUT’s accounts receivable aging schedule as of August 31, 2016. Work your way about two-thirds down and you’ll see UFT owed $10,536,056, of which $4,095,514 was 90-180 days past due. That is, it was due somewhere in between the end of February and the end of May, but had not yet been paid by the end of August.

UFT’s own liabilities schedule, from July 31, shows almost the same amount owed as “per capita dues payable.”

If Mulgrew wants to paint late dues payments as unimportant, that’s his prerogative. But he looks foolish when he calls official information from his own union and his parent union “fake news.”

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New Delaware State Education Association President Was Struggling Blogger

The recent election for president of the Delaware State Education Association was unusual in a couple of ways. First, DSEA is one of the few NEA state affiliates that holds a rank-and-file vote for its executive officers, and second, the election ended in a tie between incumbent vice president Karen Crouse and former president of the Red Clay Education Association Mike Matthews.

In another way, the DSEA election was very much like other union elections in that turnout was less than 20 percent. Crouse and Matthews each received 862 votes in a four-way race.

A runoff was held, turnout increased to just over 20 percent, and Matthews emerged the victor by 119 votes.

Matthews will be an unusual state union president. His politics are predictably liberal, but he leaves a long Internet trail thanks to his prolific blogging in the last decade.

He launched his personal site – Down With Absolutes! – in 2004. “It was my take on how much I hated George W. Bush and how I would do anything to ensure he wasn’t re-elected in November,” he wrote.

Matthews majored in journalism at Temple University, but discovered “though I still loved to write, I didn’t want to have to write at the whim of some editor at a mid-circulation newspaper where I’d make no money. I took a temporary position with a substitute teacher service, where I am presently employed.”

He got his Master’s in Elementary Education from Wilmington College in May 2007, but as of September 2008 “I still don’t have a teaching job!”

Matthews shut down his blog in July 2009 because “I realized I have spent far too much time on this and have reaped far too little financial gain,” he wrote. “I decided DWA would take a backseat to my job hunt.”

He left to the generally good wishes of his readers, with the notable exception of commenter “buddy,” who wrote “You’re an egotistical moron. Here’s to continued failure, a**hole.”

It’s safe to say Matthews has the last laugh on “buddy,” and we look forward to observing whether his blogging experience ends up being a help or a hindrance in the big league of Delaware politics.

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Union’s Internal Cost-Cutting Is Thorny

The finances of New York State United Teachers are a mess, but NYSUT’s officers are not entirely blind to the problem. When a union tries to cut its costs, it not only runs into labor unrest with its own employees, it might also provide political fodder for internal opponents.

Case in point: NYSUT sought to save a few bucks by hiring Certify, a company that supplies mobile apps and reporting tools for the processing of expense reports. This task is usually done in-house.

The staff contract bans outsourcing of work previously done by bargaining unit members without the staff union’s permission. NYSUT had to make the new process optional for employees, and evidently every single one of them has refused to use Certify.

NYSUT managers and executives, however, are not members of the staff union, and are required to use Certify. This irritated not only the staff union, but also Stronger Together, the opposition caucus within NYSUT that is running candidates for the union’s executive positions. It posted its complaint, which I excerpt here:

We are perplexed and disheartened by the decision made by our current officers to subcontract the work of our union brothers and sisters. According to Secretary-Treasurer candidate Nate Hathaway, “This flies in the face of our core values as unionists. We must not fall into the trap of pursuing expediency at the expense of what is right. Union workers are paid more because they defend the value of the individual worker and the concept that a worker should have protections in the workplace and be compensated with a reasonable, living wage. What do we stand for as an organization if we espouse these principles in grand platitudes, yet pursue a policy of employing the services of those not afforded the very rights we claim to fight for? This is very disheartening news.”

​To address the budget issues that exist within NYSUT, our officers need to reduce costs through a transparent process that honors the work and commitments made to our unionized staff.

A noble sentiment, but honoring the work and commitments made to NYSUT’s unionized staff has resulted in net assets of negative $413 million. The teachers of New York are on the hook for that.

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Teacher Shortage Truthers?

When last we beat this dead horse, we learned that California has a teacher shortage, no matter how many teachers we hire. Something about a distinction between “filling vacancies” and solving shortages.

This morning we went a step beyond, discovering that we can lay off almost 2,000 teachers and still have a teacher shortage.

How to explain this apparent paradox?

This year, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a minimal 2.1 percent increase for K-12 education in January, which educators said would not be enough to cover districts’ increasing salaries, benefits and costs.

Districts negotiated compensation increases beyond their ability to pay, leaving them no choice but to reduce the number of people to whom they pay that higher compensation.

That might be a bad thing, but if 2,000 teachers are laid off, aren’t they then available to be hired elsewhere during this catastrophic teacher shortage, perhaps even in areas of greater need? That could be a good thing, couldn’t it?

A state senate bill to address the teacher shortage has gotten a lot of national play. It would exempt teachers from paying California state income tax if they remain in the classroom for five years.

I don’t know if this will rid us of the teacher shortage, but I’m in favor of it anyway. The next step should be to exempt police officers and firefighters from the income tax. Then construction workers and farmers. Then everyone else.

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