A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

NEA Representative Assembly 2016: Imaginary Numbers

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 04•16

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.


Into the Potbelly of the Beast

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jul• 01•16

Packing my bags for the trip to DC for next week’s National Education Association Representative Assembly. NEA and Hillary Clinton have wisely rescheduled her appearance for Tuesday the 5th. One delegate is in a quandary.

I’ve attended so many of these things I plan to divide my time about equally among the convention proceedings, the hotel treadmill and Potbelly, where I will have way too many Uptown Salads.

The first post will appear here on Intercepts sometime Monday evening Eastern time, then periodically each day for the rest of the week. Enjoy your 4th!


Shadowy Organization Releases Report on Shadowy Organizations

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jun• 30•16

Tuesday was a big day for hedge fund vs. teacher union stories. Not only did we see a major piece in the Wall Street Journal, but the Los Angeles Times used three reporters to rewrite teacher union campaign talking points under the headline “Activists reveal more dark-money donors to campaigns against unions and schools-funding tax.”

The activists referred to are the Hedge Clippers, whose purpose was to list all the wealthy people who donated to the campaign against Proposition 30, the union-sponsored ballot initiative that increased income and sales taxes back in 2012. The teachers’ unions have submitted signatures to place an extension of the income tax hike on the ballot this year.

The Hedge Clippers are irate that wealthy donors contributed to Americans for Job Security, which then contributed to the campaign against Prop 30. Their ire is ironic, since the Hedge Clippers themselves draw their support from Strong Economy for All, which is a coalition group whose members are all unions, or organizations that also receive funding from unions. This was all revealed in an extensive investigative piece by David Cantor in The 74 last month.

There are a few more angles and context that didn’t interest the Times reporters:

* Despite the contributions of those “opposing economic justice,” Proposition 30 won, due in no small measure by outspending wealthy hedge-funders by almost $14 million. Public employees’ unions contributed the lion’s share of the $67 million the pro-30 side spent, but there were also large donations from Coca Cola, Pepsico, California Beer and Beverage Distributors, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Occidental Petroleum and Aera Energy (jointly owned by affiliates of Shell and ExxonMobil).

* The Hedge Clippers make a point that “the wealthy backers of this dark money group are tied to institutions that have received more than $598,066,515.91 from the passage of Prop 30.” Apparently these evil billionaires aren’t consistent in their greed, spending $53 million to defeat an initiative that netted them $600 million. Neither the Times nor the Hedge Clippers asked how the supporters of Prop 30 profited from its passage.

* All of this is presented to us during a time when it is painfully obvious that the teachers’ unions have a stranglehold on the state’s education policy, as evidenced by the inability of Susan Bonilla, a Democrat and former teacher, to gain any traction for even an eviscerated teacher tenure bill. While that bill couldn’t get to the floor, it appears very likely California will soon have a law that requires all newly hired school employees to attend a 30-minute union membership pitch. The union representative will be on “paid time,” which means the district will foot the bill for the pitchman. School districts would also be required to supply the union with “the name, job title, department, work location, phone number, and home address of newly hired employees within 7 days of the date of hire.”

It should come as no surprise that the Vergara and Friedrichs cases both arose in California. It is the state where reform goes to die.


Randi Weingarten Has Some Advice for Charter School Teachers

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jun• 29•16

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a lengthy piece on the efforts of AFT president Randi Weingarten to persuade union pension fund managers to divest from hedge funds run by those who support charter schools. I’m not sure she’s having much success, but I was struck by this Weingarten quote in the story:

“Why would you put your money with someone who wants to destroy you?”

That’s a very good question, and one that should be asked by charter school teachers who are approached by AFT representatives to join the union.

The entire purpose of the AFT campaign is to deny funding to charter schools it doesn’t like. Why would charter school employees want to contribute to an organization devoted to reducing the resources available for their salaries, benefits and working conditions – perhaps even putting them out of work?

Oh, but AFT isn’t trying to destroy charter schools… not any more than contributing to charter schools is trying to destroy AFT.


Coverage of the NEA Representative Assembly Begins July 4

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jun• 27•16

Click here to read.


Getting Grisly in Memphis

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jun• 27•16

The Memphis-Shelby County Education Association voted to disaffiliate from the Tennessee Education Association and NEA last December. Here’s MSCEA executive director Keith Williams to explain why.

The loss of Memphis was a big blow to TEA, but its difficulties extend elsewhere into the state. The union fell to 31,000 active members in 2014-15, and is budgeting for only 28,200 (full-time equivalents) in 2016-17.


Federal Education Association’s Finances

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jun• 24•16

The Federal Education Association is an NEA affiliate representing employees in U.S. Department of Defense schools both here and abroad.

Total membership – 6,174, down 180 members

Total revenue – $2.6 million (89.7% came from member dues), down $34,000

Surplus – $130,000

Net assets – $1.9 million

Total staff – 8

Staff salaries and benefits – $744,000

Highest paid employee – Connie Shanaghan, director of administration  – $131,852 base salary

Highest paid contractor – None received more than $100,000

That concludes the review of NEA state affiliate finances for 2014. I will do the same for 2015 once the figures for all affiliates are available.