Education Intelligence Agency

Public education research, analysis and investigations


Written By: Mike Antonucci  

Official NEA State Affiliate Membership Numbers for 2015

June 20, 2016

Official NEA State Affiliate Membership Numbers for 2015. The National Education Association lost an additional 12,000 active members last year, bringing the union’s total losses among working public school employees to more than 322,000 (11.1%) since membership peaked in the 2008-09 school year. That’s the equivalent of losing the entire California Teachers Association.

I have compiled the numbers in a handy table, which provides both the total and active membership for each state affiliate. Active members are employed teachers, professionals and education support workers. Total membership includes retirees, students, substitutes and all others. Along with the numbers are the one-year and five-year changes in those figures.

For quick reference you can refer to this chart as I detail the exact numbers. (Click on chart for better viewing.)


It was a good year in terms of raw numbers for California, Florida, New York and Washington, who combined to add almost 16,000 members to NEA’s rolls – although half the dues from those new Florida and New York members goes to AFT. But no affiliate matched the percentage increase of Vermont NEA, whose active membership jumped more than 10 percent. The spike in teacher hiring last year might help explain why school district consolidation is such a big issue in the state this year.

Much of that gain was offset by losses in just one state – Alabama. Placed under NEA trusteeship last year, the Alabama Education Association lost almost 10,000 teachers and support employees – about 16 percent of its active membership. Michigan and Wisconsin were the next biggest losers in raw numbers. The Michigan Education Association’s membership fell by more than 7,200, and the Wisconsin Education Association Council lost almost 5,100 more members, bringing its losses since 2010 to more than 58 percent. Pennsylvania was a surprise addition to the loser list, declining by more than 1,800 members.

Among NEA’s weak affiliates Arizona, Mississippi and South Carolina managed to stop the bleeding, but the numbers in Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia continued to head south – so to speak – at an alarming rate. All told, 28 state affiliates lost active members in 2015.

And because I love to say I told you so, you might remember that I made a bit of a kerfuffle last year about an item in Politico headlined “NEA’s Membership Uptick” when the union claimed to have added more than 14,000 new members in 2015, crediting the hike to its strong recruitment efforts. “It doesn’t just happen,” said NEA’s senior director for organizing, Jim Testerman.

Well, for once I have to agree. It didn’t just happen. It didn’t happen.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 14-20:

* NEA PAC Hopes to Raise $185 Per Delegate. It’s not the amount; it’s the attendance.

* School Support Workers Bounce SEIU, Join Independent Local. High dues a factor.

* Wisconsin Education Association Council’s Finances. Wad shot.

* Wyoming Education Association’s Finances. Stable.

Quote of the Week. “Education reform in the United States has already involved billions of dollars, countless education conferences, an unprecedented amount of literature, and legislative action in each of the 50 states. Yet it is just getting started. Reform efforts so far vary widely from state to state and range from teacher competency tests, to curriculum tightening, to merit pay and career ladders for teachers — naming a few. Many teachers say the proposed reforms to raise salaries and improve working conditions are too little, too late. Yet there are some new signs that the recent surge of attention paid to schooling in America has slowly created a climate in which teaching is being viewed as a more respected, desirable profession — both for current and prospective teachers. If sustained, this shift would reverse an embittering trend that has persisted for 15 to 20 years.” – from the Christian Science Monitor of September 3, 1985.

NEA 360 Is Spinning in a Circle

June 13, 2016

NEA 360 Is Spinning in a Circle. The National Education Association has long worried about its need to attract and engage younger members. The teacher workforce has aged, but teacher union membership has aged even faster, as this graph created by NEA indicates.


The union has repeatedly sought its salvation on the Internet. Considering its hidebound reputation in education policy, it is surprising to find NEA as an early adopter of Internet technology throughout its history, beginning with a bulletin board service in the late 1980s, through its partnership with AOL in the early 1990s, and the creation of its web site in late 1995.

Despite its repeated investment of time and money, NEA never managed to achieve its goals in cyberspace. Members who were active in the union used the new tools, but new members found NEA’s Internet presence to be designed for NEA’s needs, rather than theirs.

Lack of success didn’t stop NEA’s leaders from devoting more resources to Internet technology in the new century. It created the NEA Portal Company with a flagship web site of, designed to be a home page for union members and recruits, with news, classroom tips, professional development resources and links to member benefits. It was unveiled to the delegates at the 2001 Representative Assembly amid much fanfare, but was soon beset with delays and tech problems, leading NEA to the conclusion that “’s initial technical systems would not meet its needs.”

NEA continued to try to salvage well into 2003, but finally let it fade away. In the years since, NEA has greatly improved its delivery of Internet product and information. It maintains multiple web sites and blogs, and has a presence on every major social media platform. Still, it doesn’t seem to be any closer to its cyberspace recruitment and organizing goals than it was in 1988.

Which brings us to 2014, and NEA’s decision to create NEA 360, an all-encompassing technological platform that, in the union’s description, “will enhance our ability to engage members where they are and in what they are interested – professional practice, social justice, ballot initiatives, economics, unionism or leadership development.” But NEA 360 isn’t just a revamped The union will use it for member data and management (replacing its current system of tracking), while users will be able to interact with each other and NEA, as well as access information from the cloud. One source described it to me as “NEA’s Facebook.”

That sounds ambitious, but NEA 360 has not lacked for resources or infrastructure. The union set up a limited liability corporation in March 2015 strictly to handle the project. Its original budget estimate to get it to launch was $24 million, but this does not include the costs affiliates will face to make their systems compatible with NEA 360 or training on the new platform. The union’s Member Benefits Corporation contributed $5 million to the effort last August. NEA contracted with and Abila to put NEA 360 together.

Having approved a $1 million expenditure from the contingency fund in May 2015, members of NEA’s board of directors were treated to a sneak preview of NEA 360 last September, as this article describes:


The clip may be hard to read, but it quotes NEA vice president Becky Pringle as saying, “This will allow us to understand who our members are, what drives them, what they are passionate about. More importantly, it will allow them to connect to each other. We will finally be able to leverage the true power of our three million members.”

The first phase of the launch was scheduled for Spring 2016 and was to be piloted by NEA state affiliates in Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee, with 12 more to be added during the 2016-17 school year.

Now comes word that although the first five affiliates have been working on implementation, the first phase will be delayed until Spring 2017, amid dissatisfaction with the technology and its capabilities. Some are complaining about the contractors, while others feel the timeline was just too optimistic.

It is impossible to ascertain from the available information exactly what has gone wrong. Introducing new technology is filled with pitfalls for anybody, but NEA is so committed to the hard sell it would be difficult to admit to major setbacks. For the time being, however, NEA’s Facebook won’t be showing its face anytime soon.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 7-13:

* How to Solve the Teacher Turnover Problem. Write an article about teacher pensions and watch how fast the problem goes away.

* An EIA for SEIU. Another reporter perfect for the Independent News Service.

* Police Blotter. Unique brand of union/hedge fund cooperation.

* Washington Education Association’s Finances. Can’t escape those pension liabilities.

* West Virginia Education Association’s Finances. Eighteen-year losing streak.

Short-Lived Victory of the Week. “The union representing the editorial staff at Gawker Media has announced that it has successfully bargained the first union contract at a digital media company – an innovative three-year deal that sets minimum pay levels and gives Gawker’s 99 union members a 3% across-the-board raise each year.” – Steven Greenhouse in the February 29 edition of The Guardian.

“In the wake of its recent legal defeat at the hands of a billionaire-backed former pro wrestler, beleaguered news company Gawker Media on Friday filed for bankruptcy protection in New York, listing the recent $130-million judgment against it as by far its biggest liability.” – from the June 10 Los Angeles Times.

NEA Expects 1% Boost in Membership, Will Spend 2% More

June 6, 2016

NEA Expects 1% Boost in Membership, Will Spend 2% More. The National Education Association drafted a $365 million budget for the 2016-17 school year, representing an increase of $7.6 million. The union expects an increase of 24,000 full-time teacher members and 4,000 education support employee members.

I do expect overall NEA membership will increase, though its reporting of numbers in the past has been – shall we say – inflationary. Still, there is reason to believe teachers’ unions and school districts both yearn for a return to the years of freehanded hiring – despite the lessons of Vermont, which is going through a divisive district consolidation plan because “We have too many adults for the number of kids we have.”

Until we can cobble together the state-by-state numbers, it remains to be seen whether increases will be limited to the large, collective bargaining states.

NEA has also made an overt commitment to something we have always believed to be true. Every union program and project, including its efforts to influence the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, will be tied to its priority of recruiting new members and “engaging” the ones who already belong. That’s its prerogative, but other stakeholders involved in the discussion who don’t take this into account will find themselves continually outmaneuvered by NEA.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 1-6:

* Exclusive: CTA Pledges $25 Million to Tax Initiative. You can’t collect $36 per year per member and not spend it on something.

* Is Your School Board Signing Contracts Without Reading Them? Commitment before analysis.

* It Can Always Be Worse. Maintaining some perspective about America’s teachers’ unions.

* Virginia Education Association’s Finances. Cutting labor costs paid off.

Quote of the Week. “ESSA is 1,000 pages of ambiguity.” – Shelly Moore Krajacic, member of the National Education Association Executive Committee and head of the union’s Every Student Succeeds Act implementation task force, speaking to the NEA board of directors in April, and perhaps explaining why the union is so supportive of the new law.

What Has NEA Done Since Last Year? It Got Engaged!

May 31, 2016

What Has NEA Done Since Last Year? It Got Engaged! The lion’s share of time at the National Education Association’s four-day Representative Assembly (RA) each year is spent debating and voting on new business items (NBIs). These are proposals brought to the floor by groups of delegates and constitute action items which, ostensibly, can be completed by the time of the next RA.

However, much more attention is paid to passing NBIs than to discovering what action was taken. NEA issues to delegates a report on NBI implementation, and the 2016 version reveals not only what the union was up to, but the existence of its new favorite communications word: engagement. The 36-page document contains 57 instances of “engagement” – with members, staffers, community partners, students, school districts and Congress. There was digital engagement and engagement in conjunction with “quality listening.”

Much of this engagement was related to last year’s NBI to address institutional racism. The union will launch a web site – – designed for activists to support social and racial justice causes, and will beef up its advocacy for community schools – that is, schools that also act as social services centers – beginning with projects in Colorado, Ohio, California, New Mexico, Florida, Maryland and New Jersey.

NEA also developed a proposed policy statement on the “school-to-prison pipeline” that it hopes will address the issue of channeling students to the criminal justice system for disciplinary infractions that take place on school grounds. The statement will be debated and voted upon by the delegates at the 2016 RA in Washington, DC.

Another NBI called on NEA to support efforts to remove the Confederate battle flag from public schools and public spaces. In response, NEA drafted model legislation and a model school board resolution, but admitted that “very few states or local school boards had introduced bills or resolutions calling for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from public spaces and/or public schools.”

Many other NBIs were completed with the publication of articles on various NEA media outlets, the providing of guidance to state affiliates, or other similar actions taken in the normal course of business.

The endorsement of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination last October caused some internal turmoil for NEA, particularly since delegates had approved NBI 79, which called on the union to “actively engage in conversation and outreach on the NEA endorsement process with all 2016 Presidential campaigns prior to the consideration of a primary recommendation.” NEA concluded that it met the requirements of the NBI before endorsing Clinton, by engaging all candidates through “social media, patch-through phone calls and town halls.” The union also sent questionnaires to 25 candidates, ultimately choosing Clinton, Sanders and O’Malley for interviews. NEA also hired a Republican consultant to advise GOP candidates on the process, but they ultimately remained previously engaged.

A few other items of note:

* NEA will eliminate the requirement for delegates to present a photo ID before voting secret ballots at the RA. The determination was made that this internal practice was inconsistent with the union’s external opposition to voter ID laws. However, delegates will still have to present their credentials to receive a ballot.

* NEA has 45,000 members who hold office in the union, from president down to school site representatives and shop stewards. This is a substantial number of people, but they constitute only 1.5 percent of the total membership. It’s important to remember that these are the people who formulate union policies, make decisions on political expenditures and endorsements, and determine who is labeled friend, enemy or neutral. Of all union activities, only those involved with approving a collective bargaining agreement or a decision to strike involve the entire rank-and-file.

* NEA reports that “hundreds of new members have joined the NEA from charter school organizing” since last year, though it fails to provide a precise number, or how much it spent to produce that result.

* NEA states its organizing programs now focus on education and social issues, and “have pivoted away from selling insurance and a heavy focus on benefits.”

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 24-31:

* Union’s “Fight For $15” Organizers Are, Of Course, Non-Union. How to scab yourself.

* NYC Union Election Provides Something New and More of the Same. Landslide victory for the Don’t Give a Crap Caucus.

* Time for Another Episode of “What the Hell Just Happened in Seattle?” Too much decaf?

* Utah Education Association’s Finances. Plus, the Utah School Employees Association learns the benefits (?) of NEA affiliation.

* Vermont NEA’s Finances. Life is good in Bernieland.

Unsurprising Headline of the Week. “ESSA honeymoon over?” – May 27 Politico.

Quote of the Week. “Since 2010, [Diane] Ravitch has built a network of autograph seekers and blogmates who are sated by her compliments and water-logged rhetoric of wishful thinking, and she has consolidated her position as the voice for the anti-reformy movement. Most importantly, however, she has earned a position as chief propagandist for corporate unionism, while working both sides of the aisle of the big business political jet.” – Jim Horn, on his blog Schools Matter.

Put a Stake in Stakeholders

May 23, 2016

Put a Stake in Stakeholders. And so it begins.

I know I do too much self-referencing, but indulge me this time by going back to last December and a post headlined “I’m the Party Pooper” about the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA):

It will likely pass the Senate by a wide bipartisan margin (as did NCLB) and be signed into law with the President and leaders of both parties congratulating each other on a job well done.

The honeymoon period will last for a time, and then we’ll hear the first murmurings when the regulations are written. Then will come the sporadic anecdotes of unintended consequences. Supporters of the law will lay the blame for these problems on faulty implementation.

Last Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing titled “ESSA Implementation: Perspectives from Education Stakeholders.” Seven people testified: one state schools superintendent, one district superintendent, two national union presidents, one academic, one advocate for students with disabilities, and one advocate for Latino rights.

Some of these stakeholders, particularly the two union presidents, are highly uncomfortable with U.S. Department of Education regulations regarding school funding equity within districts. Thus we are treated to AFT president Randi Weingarten telling the committee things like “We don’t want a teacher’s salary and benefits to keep him or her from getting hired, just like we don’t want a teacher’s salary and benefits to force him or her to be transferred,” and “We cannot equalize spending without creating winners and losers; it will result in some schools having to give up resources, services or staff in order for others to gain.” She even used the magic term “unintended consequences.”

Chad Aldeman and Erika Sanzi each called out the union presidents for being completely committed to funding equity, as long as it does not impact collective bargaining provisions. They were correct to do so, but I prefer to focus on this whole question of “stakeholders.”

We are supposed to believe that the word is a generic term for all those affected by education policy, but the lineup before the HELP Committee reveals their true identity: people who earn their livings from the public school system and, to a lesser extent, parents – provided they are organized into large groups.

NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia took the title of the hearing to heart, referring to stakeholders nine times in her short testimony. She wants them to “participate meaningfully” in state and district-level decisions, to “advocate for change,” to provide input into accountability systems, to “have a seat at the table” and to “stand up, speak out, and advocate for their students.” She often names teachers and educators as stakeholders, and sometimes parents, but never identifies who these other stakeholders might be.

When pressed, the real education stakeholders would also name civil rights groups as part of their fraternity, but never homeowners, retirees, the childless, small business owners, entrepreneurs, or chambers of commerce. Corporations and the wealthy, of course, are never considered stakeholders, though they are most often expected to act as the source of funding for stakeholders.

Corporations and the wealthy, however, have armies of attorneys, accountants and lobbyists to protect their interests. The rest of the community does not. When the music stops, who is left without a chair at the table?

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 17-23:

* Union Exposes Vast Right-Wing, Moderate & Center-Left Conspiracy. Even if you’re with us, you’re against us.

* How Green Is My SuperPAC? Some of our best friends are hedge fund managers.

* AFT Gets Charter Union in Cleveland, Loses One in New Orleans. Guess which one got national media coverage.

* Hillary to Attend NEA Convention; How Will That Go? Friendly confines?

* Texas State Teachers Association’s Finances. Texas-sized debt.

Scheduling Note. Next week’s bulletin will appear on Tuesday, May 31.

Quote of the Week. “As we continue to make cuts in vital services, corporations in Oregon continue to pay the lowest corporate tax rate in the nation. It’s not fair and that’s why we’re doing it today.” – Hanna Vaandering, president of the Oregon Education Association, announcing that a coalition of public employee unions has submitted signatures to place the largest corporate tax hike in state history on the ballot. (May 22 Associated Press)

OEA and the other members of the coalition are tax-exempt organizations.

Madeloni Wins, Gets $9.2 Million to Fight Charters

May 16, 2016

Madeloni Wins, Gets $9.2 Million to Fight Charters. Barbara Madeloni was reelected president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association on Saturday. In keeping with her nebulous employment status, her margin of victory was either great or small, depending on your perspective.

Madeloni received 805 votes, widely outdistancing Janet Anderson’s 479 and Tim Sullivan’s 291. However, both Anderson and Sullivan were anti-Madeloni candidates, so she cleared the majority threshold and avoided a runoff by only 35 votes.

That was crucial, and the vice presidential results show why. On the first ballot, Madeloni’s running mate, Merrie Najimy, received 703 votes, while opponents Eric Champy and Michael Shannon received 613 and 249 votes, respectively. This forced a runoff, with Shannon throwing his support behind Champy.

Inexplicably, 354 delegates failed to cast ballots in the runoff, which Champy won, 629 to 595.

The upshot is that Madeloni remains president, with an opponent as vice president, and without majority support on the union’s executive committee and board of directors. This will make for some interesting dynamics going forward, because the MTA delegates also approved a $9.2 million expenditure of dues to oppose a proposed ballot initiative to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state.

“This is going to be the definition of a grass-roots movement,” Madeloni told the Boston Globe.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 10-16:

* How Hedge Fund Billionaires Profit. Identifying the greedy.

* Bounced by Both NEAs! Michael Butera reemerges, only to disappear again.

* CTA Takes Over Lynwood Teachers Association. “Democratic procedures” not being followed?

* Written in Stone. Writing about teachers’ unions while on pain meds is the only way to do it.

* Tennessee Education Association’s Finances. Heading to new (old) digs.

Quote of the Week. “We feel it’s a parent’s right to choose.” – Becky Pringle, vice president of the National Education Association, explaining the union’s position on opting-out of standardized testing. What else did you think she was talking about? (May 9 Frederick News-Post)

NEA Sends $1.5 Million to Fight Opportunity District Initiative in Georgia

May 9, 2016

NEA Sends $1.5 Million to Fight Opportunity District Initiative in Georgia. The National Education Association pledged up to $1.5 million to the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) to fight Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposal to establish an “Opportunity School District” for “chronically failing public schools.” The measure passed the Georgia legislature and must now go before the voters for approval in November.

GAE is bitterly opposed to the idea and is devoting its own resources to the battle. However, the state affiliate is extremely weak both in membership and money. It was inevitable that NEA would ride to the rescue. Nor is Georgia its only destination.

NEA will also send $2 million to the Oregon Education Association to combat two proposed initiatives regarding public sector collective bargaining in the state. Initiative Petition 62 would essentially do away with the state’s agency fee laws, while Initiative Petition 69 would eliminate exclusive representation for those who don’t want to represented by the incumbent union. Both measures are still in the midst of the certification process.

While those two efforts are to defeat others’ proposals, NEA will support a tax increase measure sponsored by the Maine Education Association. The national union will send $500,000 to MEA to assist in passing a ballot initiative that would impose a 3% surcharge on households with income greater than $200,000.

These grants might seem like a large layout of cash from NEA at one time, but the national union’s Ballot Measure/Legislative Crises Fund remains flush with $58 million even after these contributions are completed.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 3-9:

* Anatomy of an NEA Factoid. NEA’s attempts to manipulate press coverage of charters don’t stand up to scrutiny.

* Union Members: Pivotal or Pivoting? Unions can only lure back Sanders supporters by talking about Trump.

* UTLA Aims to Become Dual NEA/AFT Affiliate. No 50-50 split.

* South Carolina Education Association’s Finances. NEA’s weakest state affiliate.

* NEA Rhode Island’s Finances. No discernible problems.

Quote of the Week #1. “I am aware that Shelly Silver has been convicted of corruption-related offenses. However, the programs described above are just a few of the many educational programs he successfully initiated, supported and negotiated. I ask that, when sentencing him, Your Honor take into account his good works in fighting for and promoting education throughout the state.” – Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a March 14 letter to U.S. district court Judge Valerie Caproni on behalf of former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. (April 21 The Journal News)

Quote of the Week #2. “I hope the sentence I impose on you will make other politicians think twice, until their better angels take over. Or, if there are no better angels, perhaps the fear of living out one’s golden years in an orange jumpsuit will keep them on the straight and narrow.” – Judge Caproni, while sentencing Silver to 12 years in prison, a $1.75 million fine, and $5 million in restitution. (May 3 The Daily Beast)

Declassified Document Drop Day

May 2, 2016

Declassified Document Drop Day. Over time I accumulate teacher union documents, but without a story to hang them on they start to pile up. So I thought I would post some of the more interesting ones on EIA’s Declassified page.

* NEA’s “Beat Privatization” toolkit. This “step-by-step crisis action plan” is designed to help local union activists defeat efforts by school districts to privatize support services. They are advised not to argue about cost savings and insist “You can’t get the same service for less!”

There are other interesting economic arguments like the “threat of competition ends when the contract is signed” and “private-sector employers have a long history of bribery, kickbacks, and payoffs.”

* California Teachers Association’s talking points for ballot initiative to extend Proposition 30. The union seeks to extend the temporary income tax hike created by Proposition 30. The arguments are familiar, except for the inclusion of the expiration date, which is 2030. It is a curious strategy to tout the temporary nature of a tax at the same time you are urging it be extended.

* Jefferson County Education Association (CO) presentation of its 2015 school board recall strategy. I previously posted a story about this JCEA workshop at the NEA leadership summit in Dallas. Read that for the background and then peruse this PowerPoint slideshow, in which the union admits “our goal was to ‘awaken’ and move the community to take this action.”

* NEA’s “member assessment scale” (slide #1 and slide #2). Who said teachers’ unions don’t like assessments of their members? Here local union representatives are trained to evaluate their interactions with individual members by how they “engage constructively on value of the union” and are “willing to receive and consider in good faith information provided about the union.”

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 26-May 2:

* Pearson Pops AFT’s Bubble. Someday AFT members will be able to vote with their money and their feet, too.

* No Raise in 8 Years, North Carolina Union Staff Claims. NCAE employees say they have done all they can to “stop/slow the bleeding of the association.”

* Pennsylvania State Education Association’s Finances. Cutting costs.

* Oregon Education Association’s Finances. New staff contract should settle things down.

* Oklahoma Education Association’s Finances. Dwindling.

Quote of the Week #1. “We have no interest in hurting the company. We’re not anti-Pearson and we understand that Pearson is a for-profit company.” – Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, after introducing a resolution calling on Pearson to review its policies on testing and private schools. (April 29 Politico)

Quote of the Week #2. “When you raise questions that go right to the heart of a company’s business model, as we did with our shareholder resolution today, you expect to lose the first time.” – Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, after the resolution received less than 2.5% shareholder support. (April 29 AFT press release)

The Grassroots Grow From The Top Down

April 25, 2016

The Grassroots Grow From The Top Down. If ever a term has been abused in modern America, it is “grassroots.” In the political context, it is supposed to mean a movement or advocacy that originates at the local level. The Wikipedia entry states, “Grassroots movements are associated with bottom-up, rather than top-down decision making, and are sometimes considered more natural or spontaneous than more traditional power structures.”

It was with this in mind that I read the California Teachers Association’s remarkable description of its “Grassroots Lobbying Program.” Who knew that being a grassroots activist required filling out an application form, then getting direction from a state organization as to whom you would lobby, what you would lobby about, and when, where and how you would do it?

Evidently this is practiced in other NEA state affiliates, but the breakdown in California is the first I’ve seen. CTA’s board approves the statewide lobbying plan, and regional divisions of the union create regional plans based on it. Then the state Governmental Relations team identifies legislators, manages the required information, trains the lobbyists and coordinates lobbying days.

The plans the regional committees create must be “in accordance with the Grassroots Lobbying Program and CTA and NEA policy positions.” Grassroots lobbyist teams are assigned to specific legislators and are designated individually as either “activists,” “advocates” or “organizers.” They have to “know the political landscape” and practice “message discipline.” They also have to agree to a two-year commitment.

These committees have to develop a selection and removal process for grassroots lobbyists. (This makes me wonder if a dismissed lobbyist has due process protections, a right to appeal and access to an attorney.) Committee members are advised to “consider selecting grassroots lobbyists who are constituents and/or have a professional/personal relationship with the legislator.”

CTA provides a handy flow chart so you can see how it all works.


For a grassroots operation, the arrows point in a mostly southerly direction.

All advocacy groups want substantial grassroots activism, but what if those activists aren’t content to be pawns, and instead want to be kings and queens? A program designed to influence public policy decision-making doesn’t seem to want to surrender control over internal union decision-making.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 19-25:

* Only Terrorists Are Terrorists. Sorry, cutting budgets is not the same as cutting off heads.

* The Comedy of Terrors. “This is the kind of politics that we should all reject.” Unless people I agree with do it. Then it’s OK.

* Story Most Likely To Be Ignored. Shortage.

* Teachers Unions Still Underperform in Clinton’s Biggest Victory. Others will have a seat at that proverbial table.

* Ohio Education Association’s Finances. Former employees cost a lot.

Quote of the Week. “CTA coordinated charter school teacher blitzes in Oakland, San Diego and Sacramento where educators visited the homes of charter members and talked to them about the importance of belonging to a union. All total they knocked on about 400 doors and completed 60 visits.” – Joe Nunez, executive director of the California Teachers Association, addressing members of the union’s State Council on April 10.

Teachers’ Unions Should Mind Their Business

April 18, 2016

Teachers’ Unions Should Mind Their Business. The two national teachers’ unions, their state affiliates and their local units are well-known for their activities regarding public policy, tax revenues and collective bargaining. They are tax-exempt organizations, similar to charities, think tanks and non-profit groups, but they are also very big businesses. While it is impossible to generate comprehensive data, the combined annual revenues of teachers’ unions at all levels easily exceed $2 billion.

The business side of teacher unions is largely unexamined. Information for outsiders is limited to public disclosures required of all tax-exempt organizations, and additional details for those unions that are subject to the federal Landrum-Griffin Act. Even for insiders, information is difficult to come by due to restricted distribution. Secrecy is enhanced by the lack of competition between teachers’ unions. Except in rare instances, unions aren’t checking out each other’s dirty laundry.

Though unique in many ways, teachers’ unions are still financial entities, with income and expenditures, employees, buildings and liabilities to manage. So it shouldn’t be surprising to discover they run into situations familiar to big businesses in the private sector – not to mention their opposite number in the public sector, school districts.

Here are a few examples of recent events within both teachers’ unions. While they might overlap with the unions’ policy agenda, they are primarily business problems that NEA and AFT are no more adept at handling than the corporations they routinely criticize.

* Current and former employees of the California Teachers Association have their defined benefit pension plan managed by a union trust. The trust’s financial health is overseen by the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. The PBGC rates each pension plan green, yellow or red. Green means the plan has on hand at least 80% of the funds necessary to cover its liabilities. Yellow means the plan requires monitoring, and red means the plan is less than 80% funded and requires corrective action. CTA retired staff have been warned that the plan will likely enter the red zone this year.

Without getting lost in pension limbo, let’s just say that CTA will either have to increase revenues to its pension fund, or reduce benefits for future recipients. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is the same situation faced by municipal and state governments across the country.

* Current and former employees of NEA’s national headquarters, along with about 25 state affiliates, have their pension managed by a different union trust. It doesn’t have a red zone problem, but it does have a contractual one. Back in 2007, NEA signed a memorandum of understanding with the staff to bring its funding of retirement liabilities up to 100% by 2021. According to the staff union, that deadline is in jeopardy because of “lower than projected return on investments; longer life spans of Plan participants; a reduction in the ratio of active to retired participants; and lower than anticipated salary increases.” In other words, all of the predictions NEA made about the future were wrong.

Now NEA wants to renegotiate that MOU – exactly the sort of thing one would expect a corporation with a burdensome deal to do. And because NEA employees and retirees are union through-and-through, they are having none of it.

* Everyone knows the troubles the Wisconsin Education Association Council has had the past five years. Now the WEA Trust, the union-affiliated health coverage provider, reached a settlement of a lawsuit brought by 141 school districts. The trust will pay $7.5 million of federal reimbursement money the districts claimed the trust had improperly kept for itself. Other districts were originally involved in the suit, but apparently reached separate, undisclosed agreements with the trust.

The trust was founded to be a not-for-profit alternative to corporate insurance companies, which might do things like, I don’t know, retain federal reimbursement money instead of returning it to school districts.

* The American Federation of Teachers has received a lot of press play for using “its clout as a shareholder” to alter the direction of Pearson, Inc. and end its “support of high-stakes testing.” A lot of people were surprised to learn that teachers’ unions were making money from Pearson stock, but there is more irony present than just that.

AFT believes that the simple holding of Pearson shares entitles it to participate in corporate decision-making, even to the point of swaying the opinion of the company’s officers. Yet the union denies the same right to its agency fee-payers, who cannot vote for union officers or even whether to ratify or reject the collective bargaining agreements their fees are supposedly paying for.

AFT and its alliance of U.S. and British unions hold 193,000 voting shares of Pearson stock. Politico helpfully provides the context: That’s out of “roughly 821 million total.” So the unions hold 0.02% of the voting shares.

How does AFT routinely react to something that 0.02% of its members want? Almost 5,700 members – or 0.38% – want AFT to withdraw its endorsement of Hillary Clinton. AFT ignored them, and Pearson will ignore AFT.

Which brings us to: Who are those union people who decided to invest in Pearson, and why? At what meetings were the decisions authorized and how much member input was solicited? What price was paid for the shares, and were they bought at a time when the unions were badmouthing the company in public and in the press? Maybe someday AFT’s corporate practices will be as transparent as Pearson’s.

“Corporation” may have a specific definition in law, but whether one sells gasoline, soft drinks, insurance or teacher representation, we should be equally skeptical of their motives and practices.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 12-18:

* Teachers: This Is Why You Don’t Get More Media Love. Everything is relative.

* NEA Affiliate Executive Directors Under Pressure. The storm clouds dissipate, but there’s a flood in the basement.

* Signature-Gathering Blitz Needed to Qualify Tax Hike Extension for CA Ballot. Get right on it, Ben Dover and Seymour Butz.

* North Dakota United’s Finances. Subsidized by two parent affiliates.

Quote of the Week. “There are issues of nepotism and teachers are maxed out and stressed and feel that the union doesn’t always have their back. We’re told that we should fear retaliation, but that’s not why we pay dues. We pay dues to not fear retaliation.” – Melissa Cimini, candidate for the presidency of the Providence Teachers Union. (April 13 GoLocalProv News)

Schrödinger’s Union President

April 11, 2016

Schrödinger’s Union President. Covering teachers’ unions isn’t rocket science, but if the controversy surrounding Massachusetts Teachers Association president Barbara Madeloni is any indication, it might resemble quantum theory. Today’s thought experiment is whether Madeloni, in the manner of Schrödinger’s cat, can simultaneously be employed, and not employed, by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Two weeks ago, EIA reported on Madeloni’s unusual agreement with the university, which allowed her not only to remain a member of MTA, but run for – and be elected to – the presidency of the union. Now we have copies of both the original settlement, dated January 3, 2013, and the amended settlement, dated May 21, 2014, two weeks after Madeloni’s election. You can read both complete documents through links on EIA’s Declassified page.

For those new to the drama, Madeloni made her reputation leading resistance to edTPA, a teacher candidate assessment with all the proper education establishment and teacher union pedigree one might want. Alas, they farmed out the scoring to Pearson, Inc., which was a bridge too far for Madeloni and others who share her views.

Her May 2012 protest caught the eye of Michael Winerip at the New York Times, who wrote about it. Three weeks later, UMass Amherst notified Madeloni her contract would not be renewed when it expired on August 31, 2013. At the very least, the timing of this move was suspect, and Madeloni’s union local filed a grievance on her behalf.

Madeloni characterized the university’s arguments at her grievance hearing as “lies and distortions,” but soon after UMass Amherst offered her a settlement. In a January 21, 2013 Facebook post to her supporters, Madeloni announced that she had signed the settlement, which she saw “as a way for the University to fund my activism while I look for other work.” She wrote that she took the deal because “a fight to the finish through the union would leave me with a remedy of returning to a job, if it existed, that, because of a toxic and bullying workplace, I would not want.”

The original settlement placed Madeloni on a paid leave of absence between May 31 and August 31, 2013, after which she would receive a $74,623.90 payment and a year’s unpaid leave of absence.

Madeloni ran for the presidency of the Massachusetts Teachers Association and was elected on May 10, 2014. Eleven days later she entered into an amended agreement with UMass Amherst extending her unpaid leave until August 31, 2016.

NEA state affiliate presidents routinely take long leaves of absence from their teaching jobs, but the agreements between Madeloni and UMass Amherst are unique in my experience. The documents simultaneously set the terms of their relationship and end it. On the one hand, the amended settlement clearly states that her employment shall terminate August 31, 2016 and that Madeloni is to characterize herself as “a faculty member on leave from the University without pay.”

On the other hand, Madeloni’s employment is unlike any other employment you have ever heard of – particularly unionized employment. Here are some relevant provisions:

* Madeloni agreed to vacate her office on May 31, 2013, and “no office space shall be provided to her beyond that date.”

* The original agreement immediately terminates Madeloni’s university employment as soon as she notifies UMass Amherst that she accepted “paid employment elsewhere.” Only the amended agreement made an exception for her employment as MTA president.

* The university agreed not to contest any claim Madeloni might make for state unemployment benefits and pledged to report her status as “laid off or hours reduced by employer.”

* Should Madeloni leave the MTA presidency, her employment with UMass Amherst would end on the same date.

* Madeloni was transferred from the School of Education to the Labor Studies Program, a place she has never worked and, because of the previous provision, she never will.

* If the Massachusetts Group Insurance Commission discontinues state support for Madeloni’s insurance coverage, she – not the university – is responsible for funding the full cost of her coverage.

* Madeloni has no faculty duties, no office and cannot receive administrative support. She is also banned from participating in faculty service or governance.

* Madeloni and her heirs unconditionally release the university from suits or claims under a host of state and federal laws such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, and other claims “of any nature whatsoever.”

* Madeloni and the union agree not to undertake any further grievances against the university, even on matters arising after the date of the agreement.

* Finally, one provision states, “Madeloni acknowledges that she has received consideration under this Agreement to which she would not otherwise be entitled.”

In essence, Madeloni surrendered all the rights of a UMass employee – salary, partially subsidized benefits, staff support, collaboration with colleagues, collectively bargained transfer and grievance procedures, and claims under civil rights law against future events – in order to maintain her job status in a “toxic and bullying workplace.” I thought unions were created to prevent all that.

Madeloni’s existence in two mutually exclusive states was possible only because – like Schrödinger’s cat – it was not observed. Now that the box is open, only one can be true. The minutiae of contract law may greatly affect education policy in Massachusetts one way or the other.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 5-11:

* Sanders Win in Wisconsin: Sign of Union Strength or Union Weakness? Galvanized, again.

* “Hey! We Are Nominee.” The lorem ipsum candidate.

* I Have An Alibi. Second-story job.

* New York State United Teachers’ Finances. Too big to fail.

* North Carolina Association of Educators’ Finances. Deducted.

Quote of the Week. “As a coalition, we need to gather 900,000 signatures to get our measure on the ballot. We are about 60 percent there, and we only have about three more weeks.” – Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association, updating union activists on the status of a ballot initiative to extend the state’s temporary income tax hikes until 2030. (April 9 speech to CTA State Council)

One NEA Message, Wrapped in Many Disguises

April 4, 2016

One NEA Message, Wrapped in Many Disguises. You would think by now the National Education Association would know that putting something like this at the start of a PowerPoint presentation…


…is just catnip to someone like me. But there’s no need for anyone to be alarmed because there isn’t much in this Top Secret training you haven’t seen in the EIA Communiqué before.

It is part of a workshop presented at NEA’s National Leadership Summit in Dallas at the end of February by senior communications specialist René Carter, designed to “help us to reach, teach and inspire the public and parents to support public education and our association.” It is titled, “Many Voices, One NEA Message.” I posted the entire PowerPoint presentation on the EIA web site and you can access it as well through the EIA Declassified page.

Here are a few of NEA’s tactics and not-so-secret secrets:

* “The question isn’t so much about what you want to say to them… rather, ask what do you want them to do? What do you want them to believe?”

* An acknowledgment that it has messages for internal audiences and external audiences, something I explored in an Education Next article in Winter 2015.

* The NEA “message triangle,” which made its appearance in a March 17, 2015 Intercepts post.

* The words “zip code” appear 8 times in a mere 21 PowerPoint slides, the use of which we discussed in a March 2, 2016 Intercepts post. It is strange that a workshop on communications strategy for the union should include a message frame with which the staunchest school choice supporter could agree: “The chances your child has for success should not depend on winning a charter lottery, affording private school, or living in the right zip code.”

* The “How to frame the conversation” slide defines “the problem” as too much testing, large class sizes and lack of funding. The next few slides show there isn’t much doubt about where the emphasis lies. Activists should introduce themselves to “pursuable allies to support more school funding.” Then the union’s issues are categorized within the three sides of the message triangle. The first side includes “resources,” the second side includes “salary and benefits” and the third side includes “salary.” The next slide explains how to talk about school funding.

* There is something new here: “Let’s exorcise NEA of ineffective language!” One example given of ineffective language is the term “toxic testing,” which was being used non-stop by NEA’s officers since its introduction at the 2014 convention. The new preferred formulation is “Testing takes students’ valuable time for learning.” Maybe NEA shouldn’t be keeping its communication strategy so secret. The Connecticut Education Association and the Pennsylvania State Education Association still feature “toxic testing” prominently on their home pages.

* Finally, the presentation reiterates the findings of Celinda Lake’s “cognitive linguistic analysis” of NEA’s messaging, first uncovered by The Daily Beast, in which phrases like “providing basic skills” are to be replaced with “inspiring natural curiosity.”

I don’t know how valuable this is to NEA’s opponents, but NEA thinks it is important. That means one of two things: 1) I’m missing its significance; or 2) there are people at NEA headquarters who ought to think a little more about how to listen to messages, rather than how to deliver them.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 29-April 4:

* West Virginia Support Employees Leave AFT. And then the raids came.

* Meeting on Madeloni’s Job Status Called Off. I’ll have more on this soon.

* Nine Words. But only eight Justices.

* New Jersey Education Association’s Finances. Staff post-retirement liabilities a constant worry.

* NEA New Mexico’s Finances. Flush, as long as those national NEA checks keep coming.

Corporate Profit Margin Quote of the Week. “A good rule of thumb for evaluating whether an investment is a bad one is whether the person selling it will receive credit for the transaction in a sales contest. For example, consider the compensation section of the prospectus for the National Education Association Valuebuilder, a 403(b) structured as a variable annuity. In addition to ordinary commissions and noncash compensation, broker-dealers selling this product can be compensated with trail commissions or persistency payments, preferred status fees that pay ‘to obtain preferred treatment’ in the broker-dealers’ marketing programs, one-time bonus payments for participation in sales promotions, periodic bonus payments based on average 403(b) contract value for the year, reimbursement for attending sale conferences and for offering sales seminars or ‘similar prospecting activities.’ Nowhere in that agreement is there compensation for providing service or advice, getting to know a client’s goals or risk tolerance.” – Gary Brooks, registered investment adviser. (April 3 Tacoma News Tribune)

Unemployed Person Runs the Massachusetts Teachers Association

March 28, 2016

Unemployed Person Runs the Massachusetts Teachers Association. Barbara Madeloni, the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, largely made her reputation on her fight against her former employer, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, for its use of edTPA, the teacher performance assessment with a high level of union buy-in.

UMass Amherst administrators did not renew Madeloni’s contract after August 2013, which she claimed was retaliation for her stance. Now, thanks to the Boston Globe, we learn that a private deal with those administrators kept her on the employee roster long after she stopped doing any work for them.

Before Madeloni’s contract expired, she and the university reached a settlement of their dispute. Madeloni received a one-time payment of nearly $75,000 and one year of unpaid leave. This enabled her to retain her status as an active member while she ran for the presidency of MTA. After her election, she asked administrators at UMass Amherst to extend her unpaid leave status for two more years, and they complied, as a “courtesy” to MTA.

Madeloni is currently running for reelection, but UMass Amherst notified her they will not again renew her unpaid leave of absence. She has not performed any work for the university in 2 1/2 years, but the end of the agreement would also make her unemployed in the field of public education – both de facto and de jure – a requirement to hold the office of president of MTA.

Madeloni says “there is zero doubt – zero – about my eligibility to run and serve” because she technically will still be employed at the time of the election in May. If she loses her active status after being returned to office, she can serve out the rest of her term. She could also retire or find a new job in education and still be eligible.

If it were that easy, though, why didn’t Madeloni do it in August 2014, when her settlement with UMass Amherst expired? Why did UMass Amherst officials feel obligated to help her out, after she spent years excoriating them in public? There is also a question about how much – if anything – MTA’s other officers and representatives knew about the arrangement. After the Globe article appeared, a majority of the 12-member MTA Executive Committee voted to hold a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

The reaction of Madeloni and her supporting caucus was swift and agitated. She claimed the story was leaked to the Globe by an opposition research firm hired to look into her past by some unnamed opponents. She called it an “underhanded attempt to influence the election” and a “dangerous distraction.”

Madeloni’s caucus sent an e-mail blast to its members with the subject heading “Are they trying to STEAL THE ELECTION?” suggesting the Executive Committee meeting “might be an attempt to be sure that the election is not left up to the members, but is instead settled by the inner circle of the inner circle, acting in secrecy.” A call was made to pack the meeting with Madeloni supporters.

To those of us outside the union, this might seem to be just your run-of-the-mill shenanigans, but there are serious public policy implications here for the state of Massachusetts. Earlier this year, Madeloni had pledged to spend $9.6 million to defeat any attempt to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state. But the union’s board of directors took some of the wind out of her sails, postponing the final decision until it could be authorized or not by the MTA delegate assembly on May 13-14. This is the same delegate assembly that will vote on the reelection of Madeloni.

The timing is also important. The delegates will apparently debate the charter school campaign on the afternoon of the 13th, but it isn’t clear if that will be followed by an immediate vote. The presidential election polls open on the morning of the 14th, with the results announced late in the day.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Madeloni’s opponent is her sitting vice president, Janet Anderson?

This is another front in the internal wars over the future philosophical direction of teachers’ unions. Which way will the lines on the map move in Massachusetts?

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 22-28:

* #DoYourJob. An impeccable source says it’s OK to reject a nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court based solely on ideology.

* Teach For America Lays Off Staff, Usual Suspects Rejoice. The urge to resist is irresistible.

* Nebraska State Education Association’s Finances. Quietly stable.

* Nevada State Education Association’s Finances. Who’s engaging in anti-union activity now?

* NEA New Hampshire’s Finances. Clash between recession and payroll.

Quote of the Week. “We are following the constitution. If you cross the picket line you are considered a strikebreaker.” – Kristine Mayle, financial secretary of the Chicago Teachers Union, on how the rank-and-file should comply with the April 1 CTU walkout. (March 28 DNAinfo)

Can you be a strikebreaker if there is no strike? The CTU constitution gives strike authority to “a final, direct vote of the regular members,” which was not conducted for the April 1 action.

A member can be kicked out of the union (after a trial) for acts to “bring the Union into disrepute, or allegedly do the Union and the cause of union labor definite harm,” the penalty for which is to no longer have to pay CTU for activities unrelated to collective bargaining.

After Friedrichs, Will Unions Hit the Snooze Button?

March 21, 2016

After Friedrichs, Will Unions Hit the Snooze Button? On the pages of the Murphy Institute blog Allison Porter delivers the latest in a long history of wake-up calls that pro-labor professionals have issued on the state of unions. The spur this time is the likely reprieve from an adverse decision in the Friedrichs agency fee case. Ms. Porter is worried that unions will return to status quo operations and thinking. Since many of her observations seem like they could have appeared in the EIA Communiqué, I decided to put them in the EIA Communiqué.

What the fair share burning platform laid bare was an ugly truth: unions are out of touch with the overwhelming majority of their members. Union membership is seen as an obligation, a term of employment, and not a conscious act of joining and belonging to an organization. In spite of years of effort to shift the operating model, most unions still spend the majority of their time talking to 5% of their members who get in trouble or serve as shop stewards. Union staff see their role as doing things “for” members, and members are passive in the process.

…As preferable as they are, mandatory union fees are an anesthetic that dulls the demand for change. Without the economic incentive, there is less of an incentive to listen to what members who are disaffected think or feel. Union members elect their leaders and even the most visionary leader needs to hold the loyalty of his or her followers. So they tend to listen most to the complainers and the supporters, and let the other 90% alone. When there is no immediate negative consequence to being out of touch, the pressure to change feels theoretical and therefore moves slowly.

Welcome to the Dark Side, Ms. Porter. We have cookies.

Provider of services for fees or organizer of mass movements? Unions want the benefits of both roles but not the consequences. As Porter indicates, one problem common to both roles is how to deal with dissent. What if I don’t want your services? What if I don’t want to join your crusade? Telling me to make the best of it, as if I were a shanghaied sailor, may lead to acquiescence, but not to solidarity.

This goes beyond ideology. Sure, many conservatives are alienated from their unions, but you could add to their ranks with Sanders supporters, BAMN people, opt-out advocates, Common Core opponents, African-American members in Alabama and Memphis, charter school teachers, millennials… the list goes on and on.

You can’t accommodate everyone. But if you don’t allow the “unaccommodated” to go elsewhere, you get what the unions currently have: a lot of discontented members and a lot more apathetic ones.

For union officers to admit to these kinds of problems is tantamount to heresy. Porter noted that “Holding information tightly has been a cultural norm for most unions.” Don’t I know it.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 15-21:

* For NEA/AFT, All’s Well If It Ends Well. As long as your team wins, does your individual performance matter?

* Education Minnesota’s Finances. Doing well, but not so great with discretionary investments.

* Mississippi Association of Educators’ Finances. Total dependency.

* Missouri NEA’s Finances. Middle of the country, middle of the pack.

* (Montana) MEA-MFT’s Finances. Merger benefits.

Quote of the Week. “My fear is that ‘educated’ people from our own community are not using their positions to advance learning and liberation as much as they’re acting as agents of the state, attempting to keep us on an academic plantation that pays them, profits from us, and keeps us roughly in the same vulnerable state of exploitation that we have been in for years.” – Chris Stewart, director of outreach and external affairs for Education Post. (March 16 Citizen Ed)

Who Really Runs NEA? We May Find Out This Summer

March 14, 2016

Who Really Runs NEA? We May Find Out This Summer. The National Education Association is proud to tell us that its Representative Assembly (RA) “is the highest decision-making body within the over 3 million-member NEA. With over 8,000 delegates, the RA is also the world’s largest democratic deliberative body.”

But since there are already two inaccuracies in that statement – NEA doesn’t have over 3 million members anymore, and the last convention produced only 6,700 delegates – it is also possible that calling the RA “the highest decision-making body” might not be entirely correct. We will know for certain this July in Washington DC when the delegates meet and vote via secret ballot on Bylaw Amendment 1.

The measure would give the RA voting power over the national union’s dues level. It is currently set by a formula largely based on the national average annual salary of classroom teachers. The delegates vote on the NEA budget each year, but have no means to alter the amount of money NEA collects.

If the amendment is approved, NEA headquarters would set the dues level as it currently does, but a majority of the RA would have to concur. If it does not, “the assembly shall debate and determine the amount or percentage of dues increase, if any, for the following year.”

It is unclear whether the purpose of the proposed amendment is to control the automatic increases in national dues, or create a mechanism by which dues could be further increased beyond the prescribed levels. Regardless, the NEA board of directors voted to oppose the amendment.

This should surprise no one, since currently it is the board that approves the dues level each February, after which the NEA budget for the next school year is built and presented to the RA for a vote. If the amendment were to pass, NEA would have to build a provisional budget instead, then adjust afterward for whatever dues level the RA approved.

NEA doesn’t want to have to make financial decisions with unknown revenues, which is pretty funny because a large number of states and school systems do it all the time, entering into collective bargaining agreements with teachers’ unions without knowing exactly how they will pay for them.

But it isn’t the amount of money involved that makes this a potential watershed moment for NEA. It’s the possibility that the RA might actually become the highest decision-making body in NEA by holding the union’s wallet.

It has long been the union’s tradition to palliate the more controversial notions that come from the RA during their implementation. Calls to action turn into conference training sessions, or articles in NEA Today, or protest letters from the NEA president to the aggravating party. If that sounds unduly cynical, remember that last year the RA passed a measure to support efforts to remove the Confederate battle flag from public schools and spaces “in ways it finds appropriate and effective.” Yesterday’s New York Times gave us a sense of how that’s going.

Give the RA control over revenues and that would change fast. It would be an unprecedented power shift within the national union. It would create factions within the RA for more spending, for less spending, and for funds dedicated to specific projects. That’s why I think the delegates will chicken out.

The interest of the rank-and-file NEA member in the actions of the RA is extremely low. Most couldn’t name their RA representative or pick him/her out of a lineup. But when those actions include a vote on how high the dues will be, all of sudden those members might take an interest, and soon they might take much more of an interest in who goes to the RA to make that vote, and hold him/her accountable for it.

Who needs that drama when you can stick to debating Papa John’s, Coca Cola or Zagat? So we are probably going to be treated to the sight of the world’s largest democratic deliberative body deliberating and voting democratically not to assume responsibility for its own revenues. Home of the brave.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 8-14:

* African-American Voters Doing For Hillary What Unions Cannot. What good did that early endorsement do?

* Maine Education Association’s Finances. Slowly shrinking.

* Maryland State Education Association’s Finances. The benefits of the Brezhnev Doctrine.

* Massachusetts Teachers Association’s Finances. Loaded.

* Michigan Education Association’s Finances. Wheels coming off.

Quote of the Week. “For the past few years, PSEA has made choices with respect to its political endorsements which are suspect. They are based on personal friendships between board members and certain political candidates that have not advanced the real interests of our state’s teachers or other members of PSEA.” – John Morganelli, Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania attorney general, after the Pennsylvania State Education Association endorsed his opponent. (March 8 Allentown Morning Call)

Feds Shutter NEA Employees Credit Union

March 7, 2016

Feds Shutter NEA Employees Credit Union. The National Credit Union Administration closed down the Education Associations Federal Credit Union (EAFCU), a credit union serving employees of NEA and its affiliates, after determining it was “insolvent and had no prospect for restoring viable operations.”

Established in 1954, the credit union was not owned or operated by NEA, but it was headquartered in the NEA building in Washington DC, was run by former NEA employees, had an NEA e-mail address, and served 665 NEA and affiliate employees, retirees and their families. Financial disclosure reports indicate NEA performed some business services for EAFCU, routinely receiving a total of $50,000 to $70,000 in cost recoveries from affiliates after disbursing similar amounts to EAFCU under the category “general overhead.” On average, NEA received $3,000 to $7,000 more than it paid out each year.

EAFCU has struggled for a number of years, first falling into the red in 2013. Nevertheless, EAFCU treasurer and former NEA employee Tomas Saucedo still tried to encourage NEA retirees to utilize the credit union. “EAFCU works for you – in a personal way that has your interest at heart – unlike other well known financial institutions of recent infamy. Stay with EAFCU. It’s a good thing.”

EAFCU’s financial situation deteriorated further, forcing it to seek a merger with larger credit unions. Unfortunately, preliminary talks with Educational Systems Federal Credit Union and the National Geographic Society’s credit union did not bear fruit.

It could not provide the basic services consumers expect these days, and the NCUA decided things were not going to get better. Just like banks, deposits in credit unions are insured by the federal government up to $250,000. Each EAFCU depositor will be made whole. EAFCU received a first-hand education about the failure of financial institutions, and taxpayers will help fund the lesson.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics March 1-7:

* “The worst abuse of dues dollars imaginable.” Is the California Teachers Association really using private eyes to investigate its own employees?

* Cracking the Zip Code. Cognitive linguistic analysis unleashed!

* Kansas NEA’s Finances. Low membership, but low expenses.

* Kentucky Education Association’s Finances. Well ahead of its peers.

* Louisiana Association of Educators’ Finances. Boiled shrimp.

Quote of the Week #1. “I’ve had a very good relationship with both unions, with their leadership, and we’ve had really candid conversations, because we are going to have to take a look… You know what, I have told my friends at the top of both unions we’ve got to take a look at this, because it is one of the most common criticisms. We need to eliminate that criticism.” – Hillary Clinton, responding to the question “Do you think unions protect bad teachers?” (March 7 U.S. News & World Report)

Quote of the Week #2. “(Facebook), meet Theodore Olson, the epitome of a bad teacher. An example of a white supremacist teacher. Another indication that we need more teachers of color and more teachers who care about and will teach all kids. Its (sic) teachers like Theodore Olson who bring the reputation of the great teachers in our district down. If the (St. Paul Federation of Teachers) is protecting bad teachers like this one, who the is (sic) protecting our children???? We have to be the ones to protect our children, they are under attack from the SPFT.” – Rashad Turner of Black Lives Matter – St. Paul, claiming Facebook posts by teacher Theodore Olson about discipline problems in his classroom were racist. (March 7 Minnesota Public Radio)

Who Is the Institution?

February 29, 2016

Who Is the Institution? At the 2015 National Education Association Representative Assembly in Orlando, Florida, delegates unanimously approved New Business Item B, which committed the union to address and take action against institutional racism. NEA defined this as “the societal patterns and practices that have the net effect of imposing oppressive conditions and denying rights, opportunity, and equality based upon race.” That is, you don’t have to be a racist or have racist intentions to participate in actions that have disproportionately detrimental consequences for racial and ethnic minorities.

I didn’t write about it at the time because, well, what was there to say? NEA’s primary stated objective is to provide “great public schools for every student.” It has yet to achieve that noble but difficult goal, so taking on another seemed to be in the same vein.

Others weren’t silent. While supporting NBI B, they were flabbergasted that the very next day the delegates spent almost two hours in heated debate over NBI 11, which called on NEA to support efforts to remove the Confederate battle flag from public schools and public places.

Since then, NEA has incorporated institutional racism presentations and discussions at its conferences and board meetings. A large part of its Leadership Summit last weekend in Dallas was devoted to the topic. Hundreds of tweets were posted during those sessions, and they were virtually unanimous in their praise of the summit’s focus.

Part of NBI B calls on NEA to help “eradicate policies that perpetuate institutional racism in education.” Those policies are not defined, but one can wonder how NEA goes about determining what they are.

It is no secret that in recent years the racial composition of America’s public school student body has dramatically changed. In 1995, about 35 percent of public school students were racial/ethnic minorities. It has steadily increased, and the National Center for Education Statistics estimates by 2023 it will have grown to 55 percent.

The racial composition of America’s public school teachers has not kept pace, going from 13.5 percent minority in 1993-94 to 18.1 percent in 2011-12.

Not only are minorities underrepresented in teaching, but they are inequitably distributed. A 2006 Harvard study found that “white teachers teach in schools with fewer poor and English Language Learner students” and that the “typical black teacher teaches in a school where nearly three-fifths of students are from low-income families while the average white teacher has only 35% of low-income students.”

This is detrimental to both minority students and minority teachers. The study found that “schools with high concentrations of nonwhite and poor students tend to have less experienced and qualified teachers” while “nonwhite teachers are often teaching in schools that may be more difficult to teach in.”

This comes as no surprise to those who remember California’s statewide class size reduction of the mid-1990s. The consortium commissioned to evaluate the program found minority students were least likely to be in reduced-size classes, that many lower-qualified teachers had to be hired, and these teachers were mostly to be found with high proportions of minority students. What’s more, experienced teachers in those schools took advantage of the newly created openings in suburban (and whiter) schools and changed jobs, leaving the disadvantaged schools with even more openings to fill with less qualified teacher candidates.

Fast forward to today, where a new study reveals that “in almost all major American cities, most African American and Hispanic students attend public schools where a majority of their classmates qualify as poor or low-income.” Among other things, this means that those schools “have a harder time attracting the best teachers.”

Finally, let’s not forget that the basis of the Vergara v. California lawsuit is that the state’s tenure, seniority and dismissal laws disproportionately impact minority and low-income students. The California Teachers Association calls that “flawed,” “meritless,” “deceptive” and “faulty.” That might be true, but it is also exactly what you would expect the defenders of the institution to say.

Aye, there’s the rub. It’s easy to oppose institutional racism as long as it doesn’t require individual sacrifice. Hire more minority teachers? I’m in favor – until they get the job I applied for. Highly qualified and performing staff in low-income schools? Great – just as long as they aren’t placed higher on the district salary scale or interfere with my transfer or bumping rights. Better teachers in high-minority schools? Hear, hear! – but if they are lower on the seniority list than a so-so teacher, they have to be laid off first.

The unions’ difficulty when it comes to institutional racism isn’t the racism part. They usually march hand-in-hand with all the major civil rights groups. Their Achilles heel is the institutional part. It isn’t about white privilege, but insider privilege. Try to disrupt it, and see who stands in the schoolhouse door.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 23-29:

* National Labor Relations Board Found Guilty of Unfair Labor Practice. Major victory for coat hooks and toner storage.

* Colorado Union Now Bragging About Two-Year Recall Plan It Denied Having. Digging up the grassroots.

* NEA to Spend $5 Million on ESSA Implementation. Local control.

* Indiana State Teachers Association’s Finances. An NEA dependency.

* Iowa State Education Association’s Finances. Falling membership. Rising staff costs.

Quote of the Week. “Nobody wants a bad teacher in front of a student, least of all any other teacher, because we end up picking up the slack. This case is not about that.” – Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association, commenting on the Vergara case. (February 25 Los Angeles Times)

Hillary Winning Largest Bloc in Democratic Party: Non-Union Households

February 22, 2016

Hillary Winning Largest Bloc in Democratic Party: Non-Union Households. With Hillary Clinton’s solid victory in the Nevada caucuses, the teachers’ unions emerged from their New Hampshire burrows to pat themselves on the back.

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten called labor unions “a core part” of Clinton’s win. The National Education Association’s “robust, targeted, and well-organized communications and field programs” returned from their one-week vacation to play “a major role in the grassroots effort that has been key to Clinton’s victories.”

There’s no question that Clinton’s margin of victory so far among union households exceeds that of other constituencies. Since the full financial commitment of every NEA and AFT member is behind her, it would be foolish to expect any other outcome. Clinton won union households by nine points in Iowa and by 11 points in Nevada, according to entrance/exit polling.

But there are two problems with getting too excited about this. The first is the big difference in voting within union households. We rarely get data about this, but in the 2012 Wisconsin recall election of Gov. Scott Walker, the Washington Post found that 71 percent of union members voted for the challenger, Tom Barrett, but only 51 percent of their households did. A Harris poll in 2011 discovered a host of “anti-union” views within union households.

The other is that union households make up a relatively small sector of the electorate – even in the Democratic Party, even in caucus states, and even in highly unionized Nevada. Union households constituted 21 percent of the vote in Iowa and 28 percent in Nevada. Entrance/exit polling showed Clinton won non-union households 48%-47% in Iowa and 50%-47% in Nevada. Those union votes don’t mean much unless Clinton loses the non-union vote; then she would need a big margin among union voters to prevail.

The key indicator to union effectiveness in this election is not the union vote, but how many non-union, pro-Hillary voters they can turn out. This is especially true in the next set of primaries: South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Kansas, Nebraska and Louisiana. Of these 15 states, only four might be called union strongholds, and one of those is Vermont, where Sanders is a prohibitive favorite.

NEA and AFT can continue to try to drive up Clinton’s support among their own rank-and-file, but they risk pushback and turmoil that might outlast the primaries and even the general election. And since they are dealing with such a small slice of the electorate, especially in the upcoming states, they would have to deliver huge margins to Clinton to make a difference in the outcome.

The alternative is to concede Sanders’ current level of support among the members and concentrate on identifying and organizing Clinton supporters regardless of their union status, which means choosing external messaging and issues over internal ones.

The interest groups that will receive the most rewards of a Clinton victory in November will be the ones most identified with putting her over the top. The unions will have to influence more people than just their own members to join that club.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 17-22:

* Member Lethargy a Boon to Union Coffers. Too much member involvement can cost the unions money.

* NEA Names Sen. Alexander & Sen. Murray 2016 Friends of Education. First Republican recipient in 32 years.

* Illinois Education Association’s Finances. Who knew that generous pensions could eat up one’s prosperity?

* Idaho Education Association’s Finances. Mashed.

Quote of the Week. “Teachers can cancel their dues any time they want, and this legislation simply complicates the process, said Otto Fajen, legislative director of the Missouri National Education Association. And because the three teachers’ unions have to compete with each other, each group is attentive to members, he said.” (emphasis added) – from the February 19 Columbia Daily Tribune, regarding a bill that passed the Missouri House requiring public employees to give annual, written permission for union dues to be withheld from their paychecks.

Missouri has NEA and AFT affiliates, plus the independent Missouri State Teachers Association, which is larger than both.

Public Sector Union Density

February 16, 2016

Public Sector Union Density. Each year the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides the nation with overall union membership statistics and each year breaks down the figures as much as possible so we can examine the unionization rates in various sectors of the economy.

The picture for teachers’ unions was a little brighter in the 2015 sample. Of the 4,678,590 people employed as elementary, secondary and special education teachers in the United States (both public and private), 2,358,132 were union members (50.4%). The unionization rates for pre-k, kindergarten and higher education were much lower, but that has always been the case.

Unfortunately we can’t get these numbers further disaggregated by state, and the sample might not be reliable at that level anyway. However, we do have the union density rates – or market share – for the public sector in each state and the District of Columbia. Click the link below the table for an easier-to-see version.



A lot to chew on in there, but I’ll leave you with the comparison between agency fee states and non-fee states. The lesson, as always, is that the issue with agency fees is not the money they provide to unions, but their effect on driving up full membership rates. You will also notice that the absence of agency fees doesn’t come close to eliminating public sector unions, so let’s put that pipe-dream/hysteria aside for both sides of the argument.

Postscript: According to the samples collected for the Current Population Survey, 66,445 people worked for labor unions in 2015, of whom 40,677 were members of labor unions themselves, for a density percentage of 61.2.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 9-16:

* NEA Pulls a Cam Newton in New Hampshire. Let’s just pretend it didn’t happen.

* Trends Will Continue Until They Don’t. You can’t account for everything, even now.

* Hollywood Sequels. Another sellout?

* Don’t Forget: The Empire Strikes Back. Jedi mind tricks.

* Georgia Association of Educators’ Finances. Sinking fast.

* Hawaii State Teachers Association’s Finances. Paradise.

Problem Solved Quote of the Week. “Union leaders – from the local level to the national – need to make the politically unpopular decision to tell the truth to their members: unions need more money. Yes, sometimes that money is allocated incompetently, but wanting a union to be more efficient is not the same thing as saying it should have fewer resources. We will never build the people power the labor movement needs if we don’t have the financial resources to help us.” – Dave Kamper, senior business agent for the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees. (February 14 Workday Minnesota)

Where Are the Most Fee-Payers? The Answer Might Surprise You

February 8, 2016

Where Are the Most Fee-Payers? The Answer Might Surprise You. There are 10 plaintiffs in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the U.S. Supreme Court case that may put an end to public sector unions’ practice of charging agency fees to non-members. All of them – as far as I can determine – are K-12 teachers. Unrepresented in the case is a group of employees who constitute a far larger percentage of fee-payers in their job classification: higher education faculty.

This fact is virtually unknown outside of union headquarters buildings because the specific location of fee-payers is held very close to the vest. The reason is simple. As I’ve mentioned before, unions like agency fees, but they love exclusive representation. A high fee-payer population means fertile ground for a rival union to challenge the incumbent in a representation election. And from a public relations standpoint, it is injurious to the union’s image to have a large percentage of non-members.

Last August I was able to obtain for the first time a breakdown of NEA’s fee-payers by state. It wasn’t a surprise to find that California and New York had the largest number of fee-payers, since they also had the largest number of members. The margin was huge, however. Those states had four times more fee-payers than the next closest state, Minnesota. Size alone could not explain the difference.

But now I have an internal CTA document that breaks down its agency fee-payer population by region. The fee-payer population across the state occupied a narrow band between 2% and 6%, except for those school employees represented by the San Diego Education Association and United Teachers Los Angeles, where fee-payers were 10.8% and 10.2% of their bargaining units, respectively.

The eye-openers were the percentages for CTA’s higher education members. CTA has two higher ed affiliates: the Community College Association, which represents community college faculty throughout the state, and the California Faculty Association, which represents faculty in the California State University system. CFA is also affiliated with SEIU and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

Fee-payers make up 36.2% of CCA bargaining units and 35.3% of CFA units.

I could not obtain a similar accounting for the California Federation of Teachers, but higher ed faculty are a large proportion of CFT’s 56,000 members. Disclosure reports reveal 18% of those in CFT bargaining units are fee-payers.

Further research showed that 18.6% of the bargaining unit members covered by the Professional Staff Congress, the union for faculty in the City University of New York system, are agency fee-payers.

Moving to national figures, units represented by the AAUP consist of almost 23% fee-payers.

My research of relevant state laws was thorough (though not exhaustive), but I cannot find any distinction between the agency fee statutes for K-12 employees and public university higher education employees. So the law does not appear to be the reason for the difference in the number of fee-payers.

Delving so far down into the rabbit hole of K-12 education labor issues for all these year has always made me squeamish about taking up the even more arcane task of doing the same for higher ed. But I would be interested to know why the fee-payer percentages are so much larger and what, if any, implications can be drawn for a post-Friedrichs future.

If anyone has reasonable answers, I’ll make room for them in Intercepts.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 2-February 8:

* Chicago Teachers Union’s Bold Stance for Choice. Opting out.

* Congratulations, Sticker Boy, You’re the Poster Child for NEA. “And then I told my friend Tim to come up, and he said they let him in because he’s Asian, they needed more minorities up there.”

* NEA, AFT Spin in Opposite Directions. Was Iowa a great victory or nothing much? Both!

* Job Opening: Captain of a Sinking Ship. The compensation package can act as your lifeboat.

* Florida Education Association’s Finances. Not so sunny.

* Delaware State Education Association’s Finances. Mostly uninterrupted growth.

Quote of the Week. “We don’t expect that 3 million people are just going to do whatever we put in a memo.” – Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, president of the National Education Association, commenting on rank-and-file resistance to the union’s support of Hillary Clinton. (February 2 Education Week)

They will, however, have to pay for whatever you put in a memo.

Teacher Unionists Will Be Victorious Tonight, But Which Ones?

February 1, 2016

Teacher Unionists Will Be Victorious Tonight, But Which Ones? Guess what? The Iowa caucuses are tonight! Who knew?

I don’t know, or much care, who will win, but I am hoping for Hillary to mimic Howard Dean’s “I Have a Scream” speech from 2004.

I do know that tonight’s results will resonate throughout the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers, because they will reveal the current correlation of political forces within those unions. The winners, and their margins of victory, will tell us which way the wind blows when it comes to the Democratic mainstream, services-oriented unionists vs. the socialist, movement-oriented unionists.

NEA and AFT endorsed Clinton early, even though there was substantial opposition within both unions. NEA polled a random sampling of members, who preferred Clinton by a wide margin over Sanders. But Clinton couldn’t crack 50 percent. Even worse, Sanders supporters were much more vocal and enthusiastic than Clinton supporters.

The unions pressed ahead with Hillary, and they have unleashed the full power of their dues money, campaign expertise and professional advocates. Both NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia and AFT president Randi Weingarten are in Iowa, personally directing the effort.

These things are never decided on education or labor issues, but a vote is a vote regardless of why. If Hillary wins by more than a whisker, it will validate NEA/AFT’s traditional approach in a notably non-traditional election cycle. The inevitability factor will re-emerge, both for Clinton and for the status quo in union leadership.

If Sanders wins, the whole conversation changes, especially since he’s a virtual lock in New Hampshire next week. Sanders’ threat to Clinton’s national campaign is probably overstated, but it will require her to rely on the Southern primaries and her advantages with African-Americans to carry the day.

That’s good news for Clinton, but not necessarily for the teachers’ unions. They are weakest in the very states Clinton would need to carry, diminishing their value to her. NEA and AFT officers will be subjected to at least a month of internal second-guessing and criticism, even more pointed than what we saw last week in The Intercept (no relation) and Mother Jones.

A subsequent Clinton victory in the November election, achieved without a special and strategically significant contribution of the teachers’ unions, leaves them with a friend in the White House, for sure, but a friend almost exactly like the one they had in Barack Obama in 2008. I’m certain that isn’t the scenario NEA and AFT had in mind when they endorsed Clinton.

I don’t put much stock in the importance of reported union member support for Donald Trump. Oh, it’s real enough at this stage, as evidenced by this bizarre press release from Working America, “the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.” Most of this will return to the Democratic nominee, within historical bounds, but it does emphasize the disaffection within the unions that liberal media outlets have noticed.

There have always been grumblings in the rank-and-file about union policies, and political campaigns tend to bring them out into the open. But the grumblings have never been this loud before. If NEA and AFT want to quiet them and proceed with business as usual, they better hope for a big Clinton win tonight.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 26-February 1:

* Unionization Rate Down Slightly Again. Will 2016 have a dead cat bounce before Friedrichs kicks in?

* California Teachers Association’s Finances. The Constantinople of teachers’ unions.

* Connecticut Education Association’s Finances. Rolling along.

* Colorado Education Association’s Finances. Spinning in place.

* Arkansas Education Association’s Finances. Sinking in the mud.

Disillusionment Quote of the Week. “As she always has been, Diane [Ravitch] is serving someone other than the children, teachers, and parents that she officially loves and regularly turns her back on when the ‘policymakers’ call. As such, Diane is the mistress of manipulation and disingenuity and a barrier to effective corporate education resistance.” – Jim Horn, blogger and professor of educational leadership at Cambridge College in Massachusetts. (February 1 Schools Matter)

Loss of Agency Fees Could Ruin NEA Affiliates in Right-to-Work States

January 25, 2016

Loss of Agency Fees Could Ruin NEA Affiliates in Right-to-Work States. Media coverage of the Friedrichs case has mostly focused on how it will adversely affect public sector unions overall. Reduced revenues and reduced membership will lead to a loss of political influence across the board, we are told.

But the way this will develop in the short term is interesting and counter-intuitive. It is likely that NEA affiliates in states without agency fees will feel more immediate and drastic effects.

To understand why, we need a short primer in how NEA finances itself. State affiliates collect dues for their own operations, but a portion of national dues (around 39 percent) is returned to the states in the form of UniServ grants and other aid. UniServ grants help pay the salaries and benefits of the professional labor negotiators and organizers each state affiliate employs.

We can learn a lot about the relative fiscal health of each affiliate by determining how much of its budget consists of NEA subsidies, as opposed to its own sources of revenue. The average NEA state affiliate receives 16.4 percent of its income from NEA.

These affiliates are least dependent on NEA: California, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington. They are all agency fee states.

These affiliates are most dependent on NEA: Alabama, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah School Employees Association, West Virginia and Wyoming. All but one of these (New Mexico) is a non-agency fee state.

It is sensible to think that the loss of agency fees will only affect the states that have them. They will eventually feel the pain, but they are financially healthy, for the most part, and the revenues they have collected for years will delay the onset. We even have two states to prove it. Michigan and Wisconsin both lost agency fee revenues in recent years, yet Michigan still only gets 9 percent of its income from NEA, and Wisconsin only 16.6 percent.

Agency fee states have been so healthy for so long their members have been propping up weak affiliates in non-agency fee states. When those revenues begin to dissipate, the struggling state affiliates have no reserves on which to draw. They will either begin to fail financially, or NEA will have to devote an increasing share of a decreasing pot of revenues to keep them viable.

The latter choice is the obvious one, but over time it will become more difficult to maintain, as formerly strong affiliates gradually become weak ones – as we will see first with Michigan and Wisconsin.

In short, people who expect some immediate devastation of the California Teachers Association, New Jersey Education Association and New York State United Teachers should the Friedrichs plaintiffs prevail are in for major disappointment. Instead, in places where they have never even heard of agency fees teachers’ unions will go from not being strong to not being able to do much of anything at all.

Rebel Challenge. For those of you who asked, my combined time of 3:00:38 placed me 355th of the 4,542 people who finished both races, and 7th of the 66 Rebel Challengers in my age group.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 12-25:

* Justice Sotomayor’s Ingenious Solution to the Agency Fee Problem. Let’s make NEA and AFT company unions!

* One Voice? The union speaks for the majority of teachers, except when it doesn’t.

* Who Represents Detroit Teachers? Exclusive representation is playing the field.

* Former Teacher Union Chief Convicted on Fraud Charges. Federal trial still to come.

* South Dakota Unions Try to Swim Upstream. I have an idea: agency fees!

* Arizona Education Association’s Finances. Melting.

Close Enough for Government Work Quote of the Week. “In an interview with former Obama staffer David Axelrod, [SEIU President Mary Kay] Henry said about 64 percent of the union’s public-sector members identify themselves as conservative. (SEIU later told Morning Shift that its most recent data show that the actual number is around 36 percent).” – from the January 8 Politico.

Financial Status of All NEA State Affiliates

January 11, 2016

Financial Status of All NEA State Affiliates. Here are the total membership figures, total revenues, surplus or deficit status and net assets for all National Education Association state affiliates for 2013-14. If the image is difficult to view, click here for the Adobe Acrobat version.


A few highlights:

* Even without accounting for the income of some 14,000 local affiliates, NEA and its state affiliates took in almost $1.6 billion in dues and other income, an increase of more than $1 million over the previous year.

* For the first time in decades – perhaps in its history – NEA national headquarters collected less total revenue than the previous year. Twenty state affiliates also had a decrease in revenue.

* Seventeen affiliates operated in the red during the 2013-14 school year.

* Ten affiliates have negative net worth.

Scheduling Note. There will be no communiqué next week. I’ll be at Disneyland running the Star Wars Rebel Challenge. The communiqué will return Monday, January 25.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics January 5-11:

* NEA Budgets for No Agency Fee Revenue. Likely membership losses another issue entirely.

* Devastating. If $2 billion in cuts followed by $22 billion in increases is devastation, we’d all like a piece of it.

* Alabama Education Association’s Finances. What’s $16 million minus $24.5 million? A national trusteeship waiting to happen.

* NEA Alaska’s Finances. Staying frosty.

Quote of the Week. “Santeramo’s attorney Larry Davis maintains that his client did not commit any crime, and that Santeramo is looking forward to his day in court. Davis said at all times the books were open for the school board to see where the money was going, the unions auditors examined the paperwork and the program did so well, it served as a model for the entire state.” – from an NBC-TV Miami story about the trial of former Broward Teachers Union president Pat Santeramo, facing charges of stealing $35,000 in teacher training money from the school district. (January 5 NBC 6 News)

The 2015 EIA Public Education Quotes of the Year

January 4, 2016

The 2015 EIA Public Education Quotes of the Year

EIA is proud to present the 2015 Public Education Quotes of the Year, in countdown order. Enjoy!

10) “No one ever entered the profession so they could join a teachers’ union.” – Kim Schroeder, president of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association. (August 14 Deseret News)

9) “Rank-and-file dissidents have long had doubts about most forms of automatic dues collection, worrying that such a set-up helps create an ossified system in which a complacent top never comes face-to-face with a demobilized bottom.” – Ari Paul, writing about the possible loss of agency fees. (September 21 In These Times)

8) “There are people who have the libertarian view that we need to end public education. They want to destroy public education. They want to destroy every public service. I think they are not only foolish, but they are dangerous. Then there’s a group of reformers who may mean well, but they are totally disconnected from knowing teachers who know the names of the students in your class. And then there are the for-profit people who don’t care whether it’s public or private as long as they can make money on it.” – Hillary Clinton, speaking to the NEA Board of Directors on October 4.

7) “Lily Garcia should be replaced as president. This is the worst kind of union leadership, to go out there and make an endorsement – to even threaten an endorsement – without checking out what your members are saying.” – Liberal commentator Ed Schultz, reacting to NEA’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton (September 30 YouTube)

6) “Who cares what the data says because when you have administrators who don’t have applicants before the first day of school, there’s a shortage, end of story.” – Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, in an August 28 Chalkbeat Indiana story headlined, “Why people think there’s a teacher shortage in Indiana and why they’re probably wrong.”

5) “There is a culture, and if it is not intentional it feels intentional, but there is a culture that actively discomforts and devalues members who disagree with any part of the established union narrative.” – Tom Rademacher, 2014 Minnesota Teacher of the Year. (February 17 Education Post)

4) “It’s kind of like an infestation of rodents or termites in your house. It’s amazing to me. Like a cult. I would say it’s like a cult.” – Rick Smith, radio talk show host, speaking about Teach for America. (October 12 The Rick Smith Show)

3) “Now, I wouldn’t keep any school open that wasn’t doing a better than average job.” – Hillary Clinton, speaking at an event in Keota, Iowa. (December 22 Des Moines Register)

2) “That’s like saying Chicago is the most murder-friendly city in the nation.” – Verdaillia Turner, president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers, reacting to the news that Atlanta was chosen as one of the most school choice-friendly cities in the nation. (December 9 Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

1) “We diversify our curriculum and instruction to meet the personal and individual needs of all of our students – the blind, the hearing-impaired, the physically challenged, the gifted and talented, the chronically ‘tarded and the medically annoying.” – Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, accepting a Progressive Champion award in an October 27 speech at the Campaign for America’s Future Awards Gala.

NEA Concedes Memphis Secession, Immediately Affiliates Competing Local

December 21, 2015

NEA Concedes Memphis Secession, Immediately Affiliates Competing Local. The 4,500-member Memphis-Shelby County Education Association (MSCEA) recently departed the loving embrace of the Tennessee Education Association and NEA and went its own way. The size of the local and margin of victory for disaffiliation kept it safe from a national or state takeover. If Tennessee were an agency fee state, that would be the end of the story. Memphis teachers would be able to remain in or join NEA, but they would still be obligated to financially support MSCEA, the exclusive representative. A separate organization would be out of the question, which is why you never see NEA and AFT locals in the same school district in agency fee states.

Fortunately for NEA and TEA, that isn’t the case. It was a relatively simple matter to set up a rival local, elect (?) officers for it, rent office space, put up a web site, and begin raiding the incumbent local for members.

NEA lent organizing support and had its general counsel send a cease-and-desist letter to MSCEA, claiming only NEA affiliates may use the designation “education association.” This will be news to groups like the Akron Education Association or the National Indian Education Association.

Only one member of the United Education Association of Shelby County (UEA) is identified on its web site, president Tikeila Rucker. There is no list of officers, and no contact information other than an email address for TEA.

On paper, however, UEA is claiming the majority of Memphis teachers as its own. That’s because all dues – local, state and national – are automatically taken from the paychecks of teachers who chose that option. This means MSCEA automatically gets the local dues, but TEA and NEA still get their share. UEA’s officers then pulled some membership legerdemain.

“One of their first acts was to extend UEA membership to all current TEA members, and because most members are still paying dues through payroll deduction the UEA is now the largest local in Tennessee,” the web site states, adding “The provisional officers voted to assess no local dues this school year.”

They could hardly do otherwise, since MSCEA is already receiving the local portion of each teacher’s dues.

NEA and TEA are cynically battling MSCEA with the cry that “members have the right to choose professional representation,” even as they head to the U.S. Supreme Court next month to deny that right to teachers and school employees in 20 other states.

A free and open market for representation is the best option for teachers and school employees no matter where they work. It’s educational to see NEA endorse the idea when it is to the union’s advantage to do so.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 15-21:

* Not With a Bang, Or Even a Whimper. Edwize – RIP.

* Room for Adequate Yearly Progress. Someone had to be 18th.

* Capt. Obvious’ Headline of the Week. Something we’ll all need in 2016.

Scheduling Note. The next communiqué will appear on January 4, 2016. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, dear readers!

Quote of the Week. “NBI 1 would give such dual-national affiliate the option of paying full membership dues to NEA and thus be entitled to a larger share of representation at the national level. NBI 1 passed unanimously.” – from a report about the New Jersey Education Association delegate assembly regarding the question of national representation for merged NEA/AFT state affiliates. Merged affiliates are unlikely to support this idea.(December 2015 NJEA Review)

Helping Out the North Carolina State Auditor

December 14, 2015

Helping Out the North Carolina State Auditor. North Carolina has a unique law that requires any teachers association to have 40,000 members statewide in order to qualify for payroll deduction of dues. What it lacks, apparently, is any enforcement mechanism, or even any way to determine if an organization meets the threshold.

NEA’s affiliate in the state, the North Carolina Association of Educators, is the only association that has ever had more than 40,000 members, but efforts to determine NCAE’s current numbers have consisted entirely of a) asking them; and b) checking their web site.

The union’s web site claims the total membership is “approximately 70,000.” This is about as accurate as saying Charlotte is approximately in the Atlantic Ocean.

NCAE refuses to divulge its membership numbers – not to the Associated Press and not to the State Auditor, who ostensibly is charged with seeing that the law’s provisions are carried out.

NCAE’s reluctance is understandable, since the union almost certainly has fewer than 40,000 members. NCAE may not have to report accurate numbers to the state government, but it has a great incentive to do so to NEA. If NCAE inflates its membership numbers when reporting internally, NEA will expect to receive dues money corresponding to that number.

The numbers reported by each state affiliate are compiled and published in NEA’s financial reports, which are distributed exclusively to the delegates to the union’s representative assembly each year and are not available to the press or public. By that time, the numbers are a year old.


The back of the report contains membership numbers for each affiliate. Here are NCAE’s for 2013-14:


At the end of the 2014 school year, NCAE had 39,448 members, having lost 3,727 members from the previous year.

But there is good reason to believe the numbers are even lower than that. The New Jersey Education Association, in an effort to persuade delegates to oppose a constitutional amendment concerning representation in merged affiliates, requested current membership numbers from NEA in February 2015. Here are the numbers they distributed:


The handout shows NCAE at 37,770. These numbers, however, have to be considered unofficial because even though they came from NEA headquarters, when added up they show the national union with 110,000 more members than they actually had at the time. It’s impossible to say where the error lies, but it suggests that the numbers listed here for NCAE are either entirely accurate, or might even be too high.

It’s within the realm of possibility that NCAE had an unprecedented recruitment year and pushed its numbers back over 40,000, but the available evidence and trends suggest quite the opposite.

If all this is still unconvincing, well, we can always appeal to the IRS. NCAE’s dues income for 2012-13 was $6,853,344.


And its dues income for 2013-14 was $5,899,139.


That’s nearly a 14 percent loss of dues revenue in a single year, and equates to the full dues of 4,000 teachers.

If the Auditor’s report is accurate, about one-third of NCAE’s active members use payroll deduction. NCAE would have to persuade each of them to authorize individual electronic fund transfers or get them to write checks. It is obvious NCAE wants to avoid that task. The state is not obligated to assist.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 8-14:

* Georgia AFT President Compares School Choice to Murder. There would be more outrage if anyone cared what she thought.

* And Now The Screaming Starts. Who is best situated to take advantage of ESSA?

* Teamsters Forced to Give Up Exclusivity in Rapid City School District. “Lack of supportive membership.”

* Future of Teacher Labor Force Not Unique. We’re all getting older, thank heaven.

Quote of the Week. “I was inclined to call on her to resign immediately until I realized that might put her back in a classroom, which would be worse. It’s better if she’s just allowed to rant and not teach children.” – Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of Hispanic CREO (Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options), speaking about Georgia Federation of Teachers president Verdaillia Turner and her comments comparing school choice to murder. (December 11 Hispanic CREO press release)

Unions Like Local Control Externally, Control Over Locals Internally

December 7, 2015

Unions Like Local Control Externally, Control Over Locals Internally. The National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers have been making victory laps to celebrate the U.S. House passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act which, according to the Washington Post, “would significantly shift authority over the nation’s 100,000 public schools from the federal government to states and local school districts.”

That’s a strange sentence to read for those of us who remember that the teachers’ unions are responsible for the major federal role in education policy in the first place, and that passage in the House was only possible because a large majority of Republicans want to limit the influence of NEA and AFT. The defanging of the Secretary of Education in a Democratic administration is also ironic, considering the unions have boasted of their role in creating the office for almost 40 years now.

Even stranger is that when it comes to internal matters, both national teachers’ unions are rejecting such policies, and taking increasingly greater control over troublesome affiliates. In recent years we’ve had:

* NEA trusteeships over Alabama, Indiana and South Carolina state affiliates.

* AFT trusteeships over single locals in Colorado, Oregon, Michigan (soon to be two), and four in Florida.

* Both unions taking extraordinary action in attempts to prevent secession by affiliates in California, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, Tennessee and Washington (not to mention resources committed to a hopeless position in Nevada).

And those are just the instances that escalated to crisis level. As RiShawn Biddle so ably demonstrated in a recent report for Dropout Nation, NEA routinely props up a number of its affiliates financially. That help, as you might expect, also comes with strings regarding day-to-day operations.

In some states the rebounding economy coupled with accommodating public sector managers will ease the pressure on teachers’ unions. In many others, particularly if agency fees are eliminated, the desire to keep all current affiliates under the national wing will run up against the strain of paying for it all. Additionally, the unions’ lip service to internal local control is sorely tried when the local takes positions contrary to the national parent.

The true test for NEA and AFT will be when neither the carrot nor the stick is able to keep dissident and/or weak affiliates in the fold. It might be “a new era in public education” after all.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics December 1-7:

* I’m the Party Pooper. The Every Student Succeeds Act is “historic”… in the sense that it’s doomed to repeat the past.

* Memphis Disaffiliates, Alabama Amends Constitution, Nevada Teamsters on the Verge. Does NEA have a racial problem in the South?

* Teamsters Defeat NEA in Clark County, Nevada. Will the last person at the NEA affiliate please remember to turn off the lights?

* AFT Set to Assume Control of Detroit Local. Again restoring democracy by postponing elections.

* Michigan Education Association Membership Down More Than 12%. Decline accelerated by right-to-work law.

* Hmmm… Disability Groups Have Problems With NEA Policies, Too. More than annoying.

Quote of the Week #1. “I thought that was lunacy, too. We’ve abdicated control over when we come back to people who are not elected officials.” – Tim Cullen, former Wisconsin state senator and one of the 14 fugitive legislators who fled the state in an effort to keep Act 10 from passing in 2011. He said the decision on when to return “increasingly was turned over to labor leaders who wanted the Democrats to stay away because they believed it helped them build momentum to stop the legislation or eventually recall GOP officeholders.” (November 30 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Quote of the Week #2. “We teach them to say ‘I’m sorry’ and mean it.” – Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, reading from a list of things teachers do during an October 27 speech at a gala of the Campaign for America’s Future. She has spent much of the last two weeks saying “I’m sorry” to various disability rights groups and activists for referring to the “medically annoying” elsewhere in the list. Some of them have questioned whether she means it. (

NEA President Under Fire From Disability Rights Advocates

November 30, 2015

NEA President Under Fire From Disability Rights Advocates. Last month, National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia was given a “Progressive Champion” award by the Campaign for America’s Future. During the awards gala she gave a speech, a portion of which CAF posted on YouTube titled “NEA’s Lily Eskelsen García on What Teachers Do.”

The three-minute video begins with a tale of an encounter with a businessman on an airplane, and at about the 1:41 mark, Eskelsen Garcia begins a rapid-fire list of things teachers are expected to do, including diversifying the curriculum for a host of sub-groups.

Unfortunately for Eskelsen Garcia, one of the sub-groups she named was “the chronically ‘tarded and medically annoying.”

A few parents of children with disabilities were offended and a few blogs took Eskelsen Garcia to task. She made her way to the comments section of one blog to apologize:

Thank you for letting me know your concerns. To correct the major misunderstanding, in my remarks I mention “chronically tardy” not “chronically retarded”. Also, in an attempt at humor I mention students who are “medically annoying” referring to any typical student who is doing something really annoying in class – “medically” meaning “extremely”.

I understand completely that you do not see humor in my remarks. I also understand that the impact of my words on you hurt and angered you and that surely was not my intent. Good intentions, however, still have impact, and so I apologize for using a phrase that could be so easily misunderstood that it appeared I was referring to medically fragile students. I never have and never will disparage the children I have spent my life serving.

I hope you will accept my apology.

Unfortunately for Eskelsen Garcia, the venue was not prominent enough to head off the budding outrage.

It took time, but advocacy groups started issuing statements condemning the NEA president’s remarks. The first was the American Association of People with Disabilities, who not only stated “we must chastise the President of the NEA for her comments,” but urged its supporters to take to Twitter with this recommended tweet:

“Chronically ‘tarded & medically annoying” is neither progressive nor acceptable @NEAToday @Lily_NEA @OurFuture #UnacceptableExample

Many people took up the cry and the traffic was sufficient to prompt the National Down Syndrome Society to issue its own condemnation, saying Eskelsen Garcia’s remarks “demonstrate a lack of respect and understanding about individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities, and imply that students with disabilities are a burden on educators and the education system.” The organization “will be inviting President Garcia and other NEA officials to a brainstorming session to discuss ways in which the NEA and the disability community can collaborate to enhance the educational experience for students with cognitive or medical challenges.”

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates soon followed suit, describing “horror, angst and disgust” about Eskelsen Garcia’s remarks. The inevitable petition demanding her resignation appeared, and at last view had 422 signatures and growing. The Twitter barrage has been picking up steam all morning.

As someone who also tries to be clever, I recognize the danger of failing. I have a few observations about this entire fiasco.

1) The apology was sincere and the explanation was reasonable. If you watch the video, you can see she’s reading that section of the speech. There’s no way in the world she (or her writers) wrote “chronically ‘tarded” on a card and thought it would be a good idea to use in a speech. Using the word “medically” as a synonym for “extremely” is weak, but the larger the volume of words you speak or write, the greater the chance that somewhere along the way you will pick a wrong one. I’m inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt in both cases.

2) I’m actually a lot more skeptical of her account of the businessman on the plane, who conveniently acts as the perfect foil for her devastating comeback. As far as I know, no one has complained about Eskelsen Garcia mimicking his Southern accent. I wonder how the delivery might have changed had he been an Italian from Brooklyn.

3) How educational that you can receive an award for being a “progressive champion” and make one slip of the tongue and one poor choice of adverb and get raked over the coals by some of your closest allies.

4) How coincidental that you can receive an award for being a “progressive champion” from an organization to which your union consistently donates thousands of dollars of dues money.

5) I find that spouses are indispensable for keeping you out of this sort of trouble. They know when you’re not as half as clever as you think you are. Your employees are less willing to give you a stony stare when you tell your brilliant joke.

This will quickly blow over, but I expect Eskelsen Garcia’s speeches will get a little less colorful in the future.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 24-30:

* The Vacancy of Shortage Claims. Getting the press to report the exact opposite of what is happening is a very marketable skill.

* Helping Out the AP. Why the North Carolina Association of Educators doesn’t release membership information (but I do).

* Friedrichs Oral Arguments Scheduled for January 11. Leave your luggage at home.

Quote of the Week. “These changes are also intended to assist the AEA in meeting one of the benchmarks established by the NEA for the AEA to work its way out of trusteeship.” – Sheila Hocutt Remington, president of the Alabama Education Association, defending the proposed constitutional amendments up for vote by the union’s delegate assembly this weekend. Some current and former AEA officers have denounced the amendments as “a demand from the NEA.” (November 16 Alabama School Journal)

Special Quote of the Week Issue

November 23, 2015

Special Quote of the Week Issue. It’s a busy time at the EIA Command Center, so here are a few amusing or curious quotes from the always entertaining world of public education.

* “The Forsyth leaders said working for the teachers’ association results in a ‘direct benefit’ to students because the group’s work improves the ‘atmosphere of our teachers as a whole’.” – from a July 19 story in the Raleigh News & Observer about paid release time for Rodney Ellis, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators.

So if district administrators determine that Ellis is not providing a direct benefit to students, can they replace him as union president?

* “The [PTFT] believes this is not a prank; we believe this was an intimidation tactic. We’re glad it was children, because we didn’t know who would do such a thing.” – Paul Homer, staff representative for AFT Pennsylvania, after a group of four teenagers left animal carcasses along the Peters Township Federation of Teachers picket line. (November 20 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

The police said it was a prank, but I’m more interested to know why the union is “glad it was children.”

* “It is baffling to me why you would try to stop dedicated people from joining your union.” – Clint Vaupel, adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago. Fifty-five full-time staffers want to join the school’s part-time faculty union because they, well, also teach part-time. The union won’t let them join because as full-time staffers they don’t have a “shared community of interest.” (November 23 Columbia Chronicle)

To make matters worse, because the union is the exclusive representative for part-time faculty, the staffers can’t negotiate their own terms with management either.

* “[Alabama Education Association staff consultant Amy] Marlowe said AEA’s enrollment is up 2,000 members since this time last year. She said she didn’t have a total membership number immediately available.” – from a November 23 Decatur Daily story about the proposed changes to the AEA Constitution.

AEA’s total membership in 2014 was 88,243. Unofficial numbers from February 2015 show 83,064. The reporter was right to ask for a number against such a claim. Whether the membership growth claim is accurate or not, the claim that a total membership number wasn’t “immediately available” is bogus. How can you know you’re up 2,000 if you don’t know how many you have?

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 17-23:

* Memphis Holding Disaffiliation Vote This Week. No word on results yet.

* The Company You Keep. Hedge fund managers are evil up until the point they write you a check.

* CTA Makes Initial $3 Million Pledge to 2016 Tax Initiative. Temporary tax to be extended until 2030.

* “A New Model For Cooperation.” Maybe for those who still have jobs.

Back to the Future With Members-Only Unions

November 16, 2015

Back to the Future With Members-Only Unions. With the possibility looming that unions soon will be unable to compel payment from non-members, there is much speculation about what system of labor relations will follow. Strangely enough, there is common ground between segments of the Left and Right about one such system: members-only unions.

It isn’t a new idea, and actually precedes the National Labor Relations Act. Two authors for The Century Foundation stated it very simply: “Workers who do not wish to be members do not have to join, and in turn, the union does not have to provide non-member employees with any services.”

That does not seem like such a radical concept, being the basis for virtually every other membership organization or commercial relationship, but quite a few thinkers on the Left are embracing it as a radical concept.

The first discussion of the issue this year appeared in an article by Catherine Fisk in The American Prospect. Then came the widely-cited piece from Moshe Marvit and Leigh Anne Schriever for The Century Foundation, followed shortly by a Michelle Chen story in The Nation.

All of them appear to be sanguine about the potential of members-only unions, seeing it as a way out of the agency fee fiasco. They are persuaded that a members-only union “would have to have an engaged, educated, and committed membership in order to gain concessions through collective bargaining.”

The most interesting analysis came from Shaun Richman in the pages of In These Times. A former AFT organizer, Richman is more radical than the previous authors, but he also has a better grasp of the internal consequences for unions than the rest do.

For example, he reminds us that the combination of exclusive representation and agency fees “is a uniquely American collective bargaining framework – and a relatively new one, at that.”

Competition among unions for members was the norm in the early days of American organized labor, and is still the case among unions in Europe. Richman suggests that those days will return if agency fees go away. “If a union, for whatever reason, only seeks to represent a portion of a bargaining unit, another organization will come along to recruit the workers who are left out by promising better benefits or an alternative approach to seeking improvements on the job. This may not be a bad thing,” he writes.

He also looks ahead to possibilities like proportional representation at the bargaining table, and the empowerment of internal union opposition caucuses. Union dissidents currently have to do battle with the union majority, and then stand silent in solidarity during bargaining. As Richman sees it, “If pluralism was tolerated at the workplace; however, dissidents would be freed up to seek out a militant minority of co-workers and focus their fire on the boss instead of union leadership.”

This sounds scary to many unionists, but Richman says, “If this sounds like chaos, good! The current legal assault on unions deserves nothing less as a response.”

It doesn’t sound like chaos to me. It sounds like individuals making their own choices about their economic relationships and how best to interact with other involved parties. Who’s up for a free market in labor representation?

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 10-16:

* CTA: Friedrichs Could Kill You. Wherein I also play the Correlation Game.

* Florida, Unions and Friedrichs. When it comes to teacher bargaining, Florida is California without agency fees.

* Chicago Teachers Union Poll Shows 97% of Members Support Something They Weren’t Asked About. The questions were surprising, but not striking.

* Veterans Day: How to Throw People and Things Out of Airplanes. I threw a trooper from in the air; he fell to earth, I know not where.

* What, Again? Number 1,453 in a series.

Quote of the Week #1. “Everybody wants to know whether I’m going to be in tights. And the answer is no.” – Fedrick Ingram, vice president-elect of the Florida Education Association, who agreed to participate in a wrestling event for an anti-bullying non-profit. (November 11 Miami Herald)

Quote of the Week #2. “It’s a tough issue again if you’re trying to maintain your support among teachers unions and then you’re trying to deal with this issue here…I get the dance. I get how delicate the dance is but nevertheless, it’s a dance.” – Roland Martin, host of TV One’s News One Now, giving his impression of Hillary Clinton’s response to his question about charter schools. (November 12 The Seventy Four)

Agency Fees Secure Federalism, Economic Stability & “Harmonious Relationships,” Unions Say

November 9, 2015

Agency Fees Secure Federalism, Economic Stability & “Harmonious Relationships,” Unions Say. The affected unions filed their respondents’ brief in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, and their efforts to sway five U.S. Supreme Court justices to their side know no bounds.

The 76-page mash note to the precedent of Abood, the case that currently regulates public sector unions’ use of agency fees, is incongruous in many ways, since the 1977 ruling itself overturned previous precedent, and had the roots of the Friedrichs arguments embedded in its concurring opinions.

I’m not an attorney, so I can’t say if the unions’ legal arguments are sound, but I thought you would be interested to read their depiction of public sector collective bargaining and the world we live in. Their defense of federalism and warnings of disarray and turmoil seem designed to appeal directly to Justice Antonin Scalia, whom they believe is a swing vote based on his opinion in the 1991 Lehnert case.

Here are a few excerpts from the respondents’ brief. I’ve excised legal citations for easier reading.

Agency fees are supported by federalist principles. “Overruling Abood would remove from ongoing political debate a policy matter that citizens of different States have chosen to address differently based on local circumstances. Such a radical break from First Amendment and federalism principles is especially unwarranted here, given that petitioners aggressively resisted the creation of any factual record that would justify altering Abood‘s careful constitutional balance.”

With agency fees there is harmony. Without agency fees there is chaos. “Agency-shop statutes reflect States’ sovereign judgment that exclusive representation and fair share fees are vital ‘to avoid labor strife, to secure economic stability, to insure the efficiency and continuity of state and local governments, and to develop harmonious relationships between the public employer and its employees.’”

* “A single representative is critical to avoid the confusion and burden of negotiating with multiple groups of workers with conflicting demands.”

* “Moreover, the overbreadth of petitioners’ rule would impose intolerable societal costs. Under petitioners’ view, for example, public schools would have to require affirmative opt-in by all students to avoid risking the infringement of religious objectors’ free-exercise rights. Similarly, schools could not lead the Pledge of Allegiance, without obtaining every child’s affirmative consent, because of the ‘risk’ (however slight) that some children would feel pressured to participate. The government’s operations would grind to a halt if affirmative consent had to be obtained each time government programs created the possibility of First Amendment objection.”

Without agency fees unions would suffer financial hardship. “Empirical research demonstrates that unions forced to carry large numbers of free riders are ‘less financially stable,’ with ‘lower liquidity, lower reserves, and heavy borrowing,’ which ‘suggest[s] that staying afloat is a continuing challenge.’”

Issues addressed in collective bargaining are “uncontroversial workplace matters.” “Petitioners’ argument focuses on issues – such as teacher tenure, budget layoff standards, and the standards for teacher termination – that may divide public-school teachers. But those are red herrings. As an initial matter, California does not generally permit collective bargaining over those issues, which are governed by state statute… Putting that aside, petitioners exaggerate the divisions created by these issues. Even ‘teachers who believe they are above-average’ routinely benefit from seniority protections and due-process protections – for example, where more experienced teachers are targeted for termination in a budget layoff because of their higher salaries. More fundamentally, the vast majority of issues on which the unions bargain are of common interest to all union and non-union employees alike… These are uncontroversial workplace matters and simply require little more than coordination between the public employer and its employees.”

* “Petitioners claim that grievances are merely designed to enforce the CBA, with which objecting non-members disagree. But it is implausible that non-members object to the entire CBA. The union represents non-members on many uncontroversial issues that indisputably benefit them, such as the enforcement of sick-leave policies.”

Other sections declare that unions themselves “provide vital services to the State” and that agency fees result in “a more productive workforce.”

Some of this might hold water if every state allowed agency fees and we had no means of comparison. But 25 states have right-to-work laws. Is California really more economically stable than Texas? Is there more labor strife in Indiana than in Illinois? Does New York have a more productive workforce than Florida?

The unions are free to use whatever argument they think will win, which makes its Friedrichs defense a political calculation, as is virtually every activity they undertake, whether at the bargaining table or away from it.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics November 3-9:

* “The NEA Is Deceiving Us.” Says the union guy with 42 years of experience.

* Declassified: Hillary’s NEA Town Hall Answers. In case you thought I made them up.

* Imponderable Question of the Day. Save your pennies, but keep paying dues.

* Balloting Underway to Choose NEA or Teamsters in Vegas. Will majority rule this time?

* We’re Talking About Practice, Man. A practice vote?

Quote of the Week. “When you’re not in a room with people, you assign an intent, and often it’s a negative intent. I hope what I learned in this setting is transferrable. I hope I will give others the benefit of the doubt, and that when I go into my world I will talk differently about people with differing opinions.” – Becky Pringle, vice president of the National Education Association, describing her work with Convergence, a group that endeavors to “create unlikely alliances to solve our nation’s most challenging issues.” (November 3 New York Times)

NAEP Scores: They’re Digging in the Wrong Place

November 2, 2015

NAEP Scores: They’re Digging in the Wrong Place. When the scores from the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) were released, the news headlines followed the lead of the government’s framing:

Washington Post – “U.S. student performance slips on national test

U.S. News & World Report – “Student Scores in Reading and Math Drop”

Slate – “Our Nation’s Report Card Came Home—and the Scores Aren’t Great

The dominant perspective was 2015 scores vs. 2013 scores. Those who delved into state and district scores got more detail, but mostly about racial/ethnic gaps and proficiency levels.

The value of NAEP goes far beyond those major categories. The online NAEP Data Explorer allows anyone to examine scores filtered by one or any combination of 1,477 variables.

Everyone knows that having a large number of students in the school lunch program will adversely affect scores, but which states do the best and worst with those students? Using 8th grade readings scores to illustrate: Vermont is best; worst are DC, Alaska and Mississippi.

Who does the best and worst with students whose parents didn’t finish high school? Best: Montana and Nebraska. Worst: DC, Minnesota and New Mexico.

Everyone analyzes the test score gap between whites and Asians on one hand, and African-Americans and Hispanics on the other. But which states have the highest scoring black students? Department of Defense schools for military dependents. The worst? Arkansas and Mississippi.

Best Hispanic scores? Department of Defense again. Worst? Mississippi.

In nine states, students with teachers who had taken no graduate coursework scored higher than those with teachers who had.

I could also run those tables with 4th grade reading scores, or 4th and 8th grade math scores.

I could go on for ages, but the point is that possibly the least informative numbers we get from NAEP are raw score comparisons between 2013 students and entirely different students in 2015. If we believe NAEP gives us crucial information about the quality of our education system, controlling the results for race, income, parental education levels, teacher experience and a host of other variables can provide a road map to improvement for all sub-groups.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 27-November 2:

* Testing Doesn’t Work, Testing Shows. Internal logic.

* Hobgoblins. Consistently inconsistent or inconsistently consistent?

* Resigner Suppression. NLRB rules unions can force you to show photo ID in order to resign.

* Traffic Spike. History is not just for the old.

Quote of the Week. “Does anyone seriously believe that America’s union members will vote the way their parent union tells them to vote? Indeed, if that degree of loyalty and solidarity were possible, America’s unions (with 14.6 million members nationwide) wouldn’t be where they are today, flat on their backs and relegated to sucking hind teat. If organized labor could be relied upon to deliver the coveted ‘union vote,’ our political landscape would be dramatically different.” – David Macaray. (October 27 CounterPunch)

NEA Members Down, Fee-Payers Up

October 26, 2015

NEA Members Down, Fee-Payers Up. Back in July, Politico’s Morning Education gave us this item:

NEA’S MEMBERSHIP UPTICK: The National Education Association recently reported a slight increase in membership, from 2,956,532 members in 2013-14 to 2,970,886 in 2014-15 as of mid-June. The numbers come after years of decline — the teachers union had 3,234,639 members in 2008-09. So what’s behind the bump? NEA President Lily Eskelsen García boiled it down to three words: “Organize, organize, organize,” she told Morning Education. “It doesn’t just happen.” Jim Testerman, NEA’s senior director for organizing, said it comes after listening to members and organizing on issues that concern them, like testing and reducing class sizes. States have been hiring more people and reinvesting in public education while recovering from the devastating recession, he said. The majority of new members aren’t new to the profession, he said. They’re “active certified” educators like teachers, librarians and counselors. New members also include retired educators and higher education staff. It’s been difficult to attract young people to the profession because money isn’t exactly a draw and teaching isn’t seen as a respected profession, Testerman said. But NEA is working hard to engage young people.

— One caveat: The membership numbers aren’t final, Testerman said. NEA affiliates have a few months to clean up their lists while some members retire or resign. More concrete numbers will be available in the fall, he said.

I thought this was bogus because I had the numbers from the previous July and comparing them showed a membership loss, not an uptick. Plus there was Testerman’s disclaimer.

Now I’m looking at a bar graph showing NEA’s membership numbers as of September 15 and they show a decrease from the same date in 2014. It’s impossible to determine the exact number from the information I have, but a little photo interpretation leads me to believe the union is down about 15,000 members. Teacher and support employee membership is down, while retirees and agency fee-payers are up.

Up or down by that amount isn’t highly significant, but I wait patiently for a “what’s behind the dip” explanation. Did NEA disorganize, disorganize, disorganize this time? Did it stop listening to members?

There’s a human tendency to ascribe good outcomes to one’s hard work and innate skills, and bad outcomes to misfortune, the environment, or the failings of others. That’s why we like to have measurements that don’t rely entirely on the reporting of the people involved, don’t we?

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 20-26:

* Poll Confirms: Majority of NEA Members Don’t Support Hillary. Early August phone poll of 2,000 NEA members.

* Hillary’s NEA Support Weakest in Midwest. Where Iowa is located, if I’m not mistaken.

* The Graying of the NEA. NEA delegates are part of a very specific demographic.

* Tennessee Education Association Raiding Its Own Local. Champions of choice.

* Memphis Local to Hold Disaffiliation Vote. Legal teams on standby.

* The Spigot Opens. T-shirt makers and Clear Channel Outdoor rejoice.

Quote of the Week. “It’s not a sweetener, it’s part of the negotiating process.” – Paul Elliott, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, commenting on the news that his union and several others received millions from the Ontario government in “negotiation fees” during collective bargaining. (October 26 Toronto Sun)

The Unions’ Newfound Love for Abood

October 19, 2015

The Unions’ Newfound Love for Abood. With Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association on the U.S. Supreme Court docket, unions across the country are worried that the 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision will be overturned. They believe an activist conservative Court will jettison agency fee laws in the states that have them, and strip public sector unions of their political power. They emphasize that Abood was a unanimous decision by the Burger court, and that the Roberts court should not lightly overturn an almost 40-year-old precedent.

That unions should become such staunch defenders of Abood is ironic, since the decision was a defeat for unions. Abood and his fellow plaintiffs were public school teachers who objected not only to their dues being used for political activities, but to the requirement that they contribute to collective bargaining costs and join the union against their will or lose their jobs.

Once upon a time it wasn’t unusual for unions to require employees become members, to use dues money in support of political candidates, and to charge agency fees that were equal to full dues. Abood set the foundation for the current agency fee system by overturning what had been accepted practice.

Justice Potter Stewart, an Eisenhower appointee, wrote the Court’s opinion. He concluded that the Abood case as it related to collective bargaining was no different from previous precedent regarding private-sector collective bargaining. “The differences between public- and private-sector collective bargaining simply do not translate into differences in First Amendment rights,” he wrote.

He further stated that it was up to Congress, not the Court, to balance the “impact” on the First Amendment rights of collective bargaining objectors with the “important contribution of the union shop to the system of labor relations established by Congress.”

While Justice Stewart was sympathetic to the unions’ position, he punted on exactly how agency fees would be determined. “There will, of course, be difficult problems in drawing lines between collective-bargaining activities, for which contributions may be compelled, and ideological activities unrelated to collective bargaining, for which such compulsion is prohibited,” he wrote, adding, “We have no occasion in this case, however, to try to define such a dividing line.”

Justice Stewart was also concerned about placing upon employees “the considerable burden of monitoring all of the numerous and shifting expenditures made by the Union that are unrelated to its duties as exclusive bargaining representative.”

In defending Abood, the unions face another irony. The basis for many of the arguments of the Friedrichs plaintiffs is found in the concurring opinions of the Abood case itself.

“I agree with the Court, and with the views expressed in Mr. Justice Powell’s opinion concurring in the judgment,” wrote Justice Rehnquist, “that the positions taken by public employees’ unions in connection with their collective-bargaining activities inevitably touch upon political concern if the word ‘political’ be taken in its normal meaning. Success in pursuit of a particular collective-bargaining goal will cause a public program or a public agency to be administered in one way; failure will result in its being administered in another way.”

The opinion of Justice Lewis Powell, with which Chief Justice Burger and Justice Blackmun concurred, was even more forceful about collective bargaining being a political activity. “Working from the novel premise that public employers are under no greater constitutional constraints than their counterparts in the private sector, the Court apparently rules that public employees can be compelled by the State to pay full union dues to a union with which they disagree, subject only to a possible rebate or deduction if they are willing to step forward, declare their opposition to the union, and initiate a proceeding to establish that some portion of their dues has been spent on ‘ideological activities unrelated to collective bargaining’,” Powell wrote. “Such a sweeping limitation of First Amendment rights by the Court is not only unnecessary on this record; it is in my view unsupported by either precedent or reason.”

Justice Powell’s opinion should be read in its entirety, but here are some salient quotes:

* “Where a teachers’ union for example, acting pursuant to a state statute authorizing collective bargaining in the public sector, obtains the agreement of the school board that teachers residing outside the school district will not be hired, the provision in the bargaining agreement to that effect has the same force as if the school board had adopted it by promulgating a regulation.”

* “I agree with the Court as far as it goes, but I would make it more explicit that compelling a government employee to give financial support to a union in the public sector regardless of the uses to which the union puts the contribution impinges seriously upon interests in free speech and association protected by the First Amendment.” (emphasis added)

* “The ultimate objective of a union in the public sector, like that of a political party, is to influence public decisionmaking in accordance with the views and perceived interests of its membership. Whether a teachers’ union is concerned with salaries and fringe benefits, teacher qualifications and in-service training, pupil-teacher ratios, length of the school day, student discipline, or the content of the high school curriculum, its objective is to bring school board policy and decisions into harmony with its own views. Similarly, to the extent that school board expenditures and policy are guided by decisions made by the municipal, State, and Federal Governments the union’s objective is to obtain favorable decisions and to place persons in positions of power who will be receptive to the union’s viewpoint. In these respects, the public-sector union is indistinguishable from the traditional political party in this country.”

* “Collective bargaining in the public sector is ‘political’ in any meaningful sense of the word. This is most obvious when public-sector bargaining extends as it may in Michigan to such matters of public policy as the educational philosophy that will inform the high school curriculum. But it is also true when public-sector bargaining focuses on such “bread and butter” issues as wages, hours, vacations, and pensions. Decisions on such issues will have a direct impact on the level of public services, priorities within state and municipal budgets, creation of bonded indebtedness, and tax rates. The cost of public education is normally the largest element of a county or municipal budget. Decisions reached through collective bargaining in the schools will affect not only the teachers and the quality of education, but also the taxpayers and the beneficiaries of other important public services.”

Justice Powell even raised questions about exclusive representation, noting that in previous precedent, “we expressly reserved judgment on the constitutional validity of the exclusivity principle in the public sector.”

“I would adhere to established First Amendment principles and require the State to come forward and demonstrate, as to each union expenditure for which it would exact support from minority employees, that the compelled contribution is necessary to serve overriding governmental objectives,” he wrote.

So despite the unanimous finding that fee-payers deserved at least the portion devoted to political activities reimbursed to them, four Justices thought it essential to emphasize that public sector collective bargaining was one of those political activities. And that was in 1978, when the political power and influence of public sector unions was mostly conjecture, and not established by decades of experience.

Fretful of their chances of winning the Friedrichs case inside the Court, the unions are planning massive political rallies against it in an attempt to curry public favor and save Abood. Had Berger, Rehnquist, Powell and Blackmun found a fifth vote in 1978, the Abood case might have gone much further towards the place where Friedrichs is now likely to take us.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 14-19:

* EIA Exclusive: Hillary’s NEA “Town Hall” Answers. “I really do want Lily and the leadership to recommend people for important positions…”

* More Than Half of NEA Members Don’t Support Hillary, Says Board Member. Let us see this poll.

* NEA: Hillary’s Another “Goalie”. Control the rebound.

Quote of the Week. “Clinton has raised an enormous sum of money so far this year, but is also spending at a fast clip. She has so far laid out tens of millions more than the next closest presidential contender, and in the third quarter burned through her money at a quicker rate than any top-tier candidate, Democratic or Republican.” – October 17 The Hill.

First-Hand Account of NEA’s Hillary Endorsement

October 13, 2015

First-Hand Account of NEA’s Hillary Endorsement. Tripp Jeffers is one of two National Education Association directors from North Carolina. He appeared on The Rick Smith Show to discuss the union’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton. He could not have picked a friendlier venue. Smith is a former Teamster, and while his mastery of education issues may not be comprehensive – he seemed to think NEA opposed Common Core along with Race to the Top – he asked relevant questions of Jeffers about NEA’s endorsement process.

Jeffers’ views can be considered typical of those union activists who rise to the top levels of NEA’s hierarchy. He believes profiteers have targeted public education’s annual hundreds of billions as “the last frontier of American capitalism.”

“It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but I don’t think it is,” he told Smith.

He was one of those who wanted NEA to delay its endorsement until the December virtual meeting of the board of directors. Ultimately he voted in favor of the endorsement, but said, “There may need to be some revisions in the process to require more member engagement than we had. That was one of my biggest frustrations going into it.”

Jeffers also got to ask Clinton a question during her pre-vote visit with the board. Jeffers asked her to “distance herself from or condemn the ideas of the neoliberal education reformers.”

“She hedged it a little bit,” Jeffers recounted, “but I felt like she at least stated that the NEA was going to be the education voice in her ear during the rest of her campaign and during her administration if she were to win.”

He said he got the impression that NEA and AFT “would be involved in advising who the next Secretary of Education should be.”

Jeffers said Clinton asked who in the board’s estimation was the best U.S. Secretary of Education and that NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia replied with Richard Riley, who held the post during both of President Clinton’s terms.

This might seem to be a convenient answer, but NEA never had any major issues with him and besides, other than Riley there have been only two Secretaries of Education under Democratic Presidents. One was the very first Secretary, Shirley M. Hufstedler, who served for only a year under President Carter and spent almost all of her tenure simply organizing the new Cabinet department. The other was Arne Duncan. The acting Secretary is John King.

I’m not sure Hillary learned much from NEA’s response. Perhaps she thinks NEA wants a Southern governor who believes of public education, “We have an old agrarian schedule, an outdated factory model and an antiquated wage system.”

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics October 6-13:

* EIA Exclusive: NEA Board Roll Call Vote on Hillary Endorsement. How did your state vote?

* The Continuing Saga of edTPA. Pearson? Just some guys we hired.

* That Didn’t Take Long. NEA’s political director quickly becomes a Hillary superdelegate.

* Fill in the Blank. The principal reason.

* Glitch. The principal reason that maybe you didn’t see the previous blog post.

* Happy Columbo’s Day! Just one more thing…

Quote of the Week #1. “The Obama administration pushed hard for education reforms bitterly opposed by the unions. Obama supported education reform even before his presidential campaign, even sponsoring a 2006 bill that presaged the reforms he would go on to implement as president. But unions have always found it inconvenient to identify Obama as their opponent. Many teachers trust and even adore Obama, and forcing them to choose between Obama and the union ran the risk of driving many of them away from the union.” – Jonathan Chait. (October 9 New York Magazine)

Quote of the Week #2. “It’s kind of like an infestation of rodents or termites in your house. It’s amazing to me. Like a cult. I would say it’s like a cult.” – Rick Smith, radio talk show host, speaking about Teach for America. (October 12 The Rick Smith Show)

Lily’s Mea Culpa?

October 5, 2015

Lily’s Mea Culpa? The National Education Association’s board of directors endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination on Saturday. A 58% majority was needed, and NEA reported the margin at about 75%, though we don’t yet have a breakdown of who voted how.*

The vote was taken after Clinton was invited to address the board behind closed doors. I will do my best to gather the impressions of the participants over the next few weeks, but in the meantime we have the eyewitness account of NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia, reported by various media outlets.

* “Everyone was just blown away by the fact that she said, ‘I have an open door. When somebody wants to talk to me, they can come in and talk to me.’”

* “There were a lot of undecideds when (Clinton) started that conversation.”

* “I think what happened is that after she left the room today, they were sure. They said, ‘She’s the candidate who has made our cause the cause of her career.’”

* “Secretary Clinton told your leaders today that she won’t make a single decision about developing education policy without educators being in the room.”

* “She knew what she was talking about. You could see people sit up straighter and think, ‘Oh my gosh, she understands our world.’ I think they were simply blown away.”

This might be accurate reporting of the board meeting, though I suspect there was some projection on the part of the NEA president. I am also reminded that Lily Eskelsen Garcia has some unusual history with the Clintons that may help explain her attitude and actions today.

Back in 1998, Lily Eskelsen was a member of the NEA Executive Committee and running for a U.S. House seat in Utah’s 2nd District. Although Utah is and was a very Republican state, the 2nd District was competitive for Democrats. In 2000, Democrat Jim Matheson won the seat and held it for 14 years.

Eskelsen was running against a weak incumbent, Merrill Cook. Among the variety of campaign issues was the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and Eskelsen separated herself from virtually all other Democratic candidates that year by calling on President Clinton to resign.

The Washington Post of August 31, 1998 reported:

A few days ago, Eskelsen responded to a question about Clinton from a Salt Lake Tribune reporter by saying that “the president should resign. How can this man ever be believed again? This goes beyond party politics.”

Eskelsen is challenging first-term incumbent Merrill Cook, who is believed to be one of the GOP’s most vulnerable House members. Eskelsen’s press secretary, Megan Sather, said this week that Eskelsen felt strongly that as a mother and a teacher who believes part of her job is to teach “respect, responsibility and reason,” she had to call on the president to resign.

On October 25, the Deseret News asked her if the President should resign, and she replied: “If the president truly wants to put this situation behind the country and move on, he should resign.”

Three days later, a reporter from Brigham Young University described the opening of the final debate between Eskelsen and Cook:

Cook began the debate reaffirming his position on the possibility of an impeachment hearing against President Clinton.

“What our president has done is indefensible,” he said. “His actions have been against the constitution and he should be punished accordingly.”

Eskelsen agreed, reminding voters that she was the first Democrat to ask President Clinton to resign.

“I won’t pre-judge President Clinton without seeing the evidence, but I think it would be honorable for him to step down,” Eskelsen said.

Eskelsen lost by 10 points, despite her supporters outspending Cook’s supporters.

I don’t want to get into alternative history scenarios here, but if Clinton had resigned and Al Gore had become President in 1998, it likely would have affected the political trajectory of both parties, and of Hillary Clinton herself.

Whatever her motivations, Eskelsen Garcia will now be forever known as a doting Clinton supporter, much more so than many of her colleagues.

* I do know the director from Utah and the three directors from Virginia voted for the endorsement, while the director from Vermont voted against.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 29-October 5:

* “It was truly what democracy looks like.” If an NEA board vote were always reflective of the members’ wishes, the board itself would have gone out of existence in 1998.

* NEA PAC Council Vote by State – Abstentions Critical. Why did the two states with the most PAC Council votes abstain?

* Why the Long Facebook? Don’t be misled, NEA/AFT members. If you pay dues, you are trying to help Hillary Clinton win the Democratic nomination.

* Two State Union Directors Sue to End NEA’s Alabama Trusteeship. Trusteeship? What trusteeship?

* Duncan Resigns, King to Replace. NEA gets its wish… just like the couple in The Monkey’s Paw.

* Locksmith Alert! Florida Local Votes to Leave NEA/AFT. State union is “considering legal action.”

* It’s EIA Saturation Day! Education Next and The Seventy Four publish my analysis of the probable fallout from the Friedrichs case.

* Ed Schultz Calls for NEA President to Be Replaced. “This is outrageous.”

* Surprise! NEA Endorses Hillary. Wasted stamps.

* NEA PAC Endorses Hillary – Margin Call? Question…

* No Money to Bern. …and answer.

* Full Court Press. Spontaneous?

Quote of the Week. “When our union supports a candidate, we gain three things: 1) we increase that candidate’s chance of winning; 2) we get the opportunity to influence that candidate throughout the campaign; 3) we also increase our influence with the candidate after she or he is elected. If we wait until our members have made up their minds, we greatly diminish all three of those outcomes.” – George Sheridan, member of the NEA Executive Committee, from his Facebook page, explaining his support for a Hillary Clinton endorsement. (emphasis added)

Handwringing Over NEA Hillary Endorsement

September 28, 2015

Handwringing Over NEA Hillary Endorsement. Apparently the rumors were true and the stage is set for the National Education Association to attempt to endorse Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Presidential nomination next weekend.

The procedure requires that NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia present a possible candidate recommendation to the union’s PAC Council, made up of all the state affiliate presidents, plus representatives of NEA’s various internal caucuses. A majority vote in favor would then move the endorsement to the union’s board of directors, which must concur by a 58 percent majority.

Eskelsen Garcia has been conducting conference calls “with a large number of state affiliate boards or other leadership groups to engage members in this discussion.” Some of the participants have taken to the Internet to report the content of those calls. I’ve culled the details from several of these sources and here’s a summary of the arguments she used to urge an early endorsement of Clinton:

* It’s not really early.

* NEA’s failure to endorse in a timely manner in 2008 made it irrelevant.

* Clinton and NEA are close.

* Sanders is weak with minorities.

* Sanders can’t raise the money necessary to counter GOP SuperPACs.

* A September poll of NEA’s membership showed Clinton at 41%, Sanders at 24% and Biden at 14%. Without Biden, it was 47% for Clinton and 33% for Sanders.

There was skepticism about this poll, just as there was when AFT announced its endorsement of Clinton and cited a similar poll of its members.

For the next week we will hear a lot about whether these arguments hold water, and whether the movement unionists can organize to stall a Clinton endorsement. I’d like to focus on the relationship of NEA’s decision-makers with the rank-and-file during this process.

One conference call participant asked Eskelsen Garcia about the internal consequences should NEA endorse Clinton early. Her response was reported this way: “Lily said that we just have to allow the people who might leave the organization due to an endorsement, to leave. That it’s always been part of the process that people have been offended at actions of this magnitude and refuse to participate because of it. According to her, our numbers have always fluctuated with elections.”

I was also struck by this comment from Peter Greene on his blog: “I’ve been a local president during a strike. I know how seductive the old belief about ends justifying means can be. I know how easily and often union leaders end up in a meeting about how we need the members to make a particular decision, so here’s how we’ll stage manage the meeting so that they decide what we want them to decide.”

See the link to the Arne Duncan story below.

This face-off isn’t really about an endorsement. NEA won’t endorse Sanders unless he clinches the nomination and it won’t endorse Biden if Clinton is still in the race. Hillary might also privately question the actual value of an NEA endorsement.

It’s about whether a troubled union will continue to act as it has always acted, manipulating the process to achieve a desired aim, or if it will be swayed to change by ideological purists. By this time next week we will know the answer to that question, and the fallout will commence immediately.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 22-28:

* Politico: Arne Duncan Helped Write NEA’s “13 Things We Hate About Arne Duncan.” Making your own delegates look like saps.

* The Day NEA Went to the Dogs. NEA, Ted Kennedy and NCLB.

* NEA Resolutions 2015-16. Everything NEA thinks about everything.

* Crossing the Delaware. Teacher advancement.

Quote of the Week. “Rank-and-file dissidents have long had doubts about most forms of automatic dues collection, worrying that such a set-up helps create an ossified system in which a complacent top never comes face-to-face with a demobilized bottom.” – Ari Paul, writing about the possible loss of agency fees in the pages of the September 21 In These Times.

The Coming Teacher Union Crack-Up

September 21, 2015

The Coming Teacher Union Crack-Up. Believe it or not, this was a monumental week in the world of teachers’ unions. There was no single monumental event, but it’s rare to see such a collection of incidents in a seven-day span that serve to indicate a clear future direction. Let’s itemize them, then I will try to explain how I think they all tie together.

* The end of the Seattle teacher strike.

* The rumor that NEA might kickstart the process of endorsing Hillary Clinton.

* The rank-and-file vote by the Detroit Federation of Teachers and Steve Conn’s response.

* The decision of the Caucus of Working Educators to challenge the leaders of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers in the next election.

* The move by opposition factions within New York City’s United Federation of Teachers to join forces against the incumbent UFT officers in the next election.

In Seattle, a reported 83 percent of voting union members ratified a tentative agreement after a week-long strike. The Seattle Education Association touted the removal of student test scores from teacher evaluations, 30 minutes of recess, and equity committees in 30 schools to deal with “disproportionate discipline.” The district received a longer instructional day and agreement to its pay offer.

This was curious, since SEA was demanding much higher pay than it got, and the amount it accepted was barely higher than the district’s offer before the strike.

“The district was not going to move on any more money,” said the head of SEA’s bargaining team. “I think if we held out any longer, they would’ve started taking stuff off the table.”

Also lost in the uproar over the strike was the fact that the SEA officers had bargained the evaluation system into the last contract, even to the point where the Seattle Times reported that it was SEA president Jonathan Knapp’s idea. So what changed?

Last year SEA held an election and Knapp barely edged out challenger Jesse Hagopian and his caucus of Social Equality Educators. Hagopian is a leftist (to say the minimum) but in a liberal city he is sufficiently within the mainstream to become a force within his union. By emphasizing the social justice aspects of the agreement, Knapp and his supporters undercut Hagopian’s criticisms, and the lack of a huge pay increase actually helps the message – “See, it wasn’t just about money.” For his part, Hagopian doesn’t seem all that thrilled with the result.

There is a real schism in philosophy within the teachers’ unions these days. I have previously described it as militants vs. establishmentarians, but I think I have a better description now. It is a battle between movement unionists and services unionists.

The former believe people join unions to be part of the organized labor movement, to lobby, rally, agitate, protest and strike for a working class agenda. That is why most movement unionists tend to be heavily involved in many leftist causes. The latter believe people join unions to improve their pay, benefits and working conditions. Though heavily involved in advocacy, much of it political in nature, the relationship of services unionists to their members is in many ways a commercial one. Fees are paid in exchange for services – contract negotiation, grievance processing, protection against arbitrary employment actions, liability insurance, and so forth.

So when it comes to endorsing a candidate for President of the United States, the movement unionists want, to the greatest extent possible, ideological purity while the services unionists want the best bet to win. This is exemplified in the backing of Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, by the movement, and their horror to think that NEA might summarily endorse the mainstream candidate.

As things stand now, movement unionists within NEA might have sufficient strength to force a postponement of a Hillary endorsement, but they are completely incapable of bringing NEA anywhere near the point of endorsing Sanders. This a recipe for simmering resentment on both sides, but it is the movement unionists who are on the rise internally in both national teachers’ unions.

Steve Conn ran for the presidency of the Detroit Federation of Teachers about a dozen times before he finally won… narrowly. Last week he took a clear majority in a referendum on his removal from office. Conn is no one’s idea of a leader of a movement, which is what makes the vote all the more remarkable. If he can actually form his own union, the Detroit Federation of Teachers will begin to disintegrate – not because Conn is so appealing, but because he will take the movement unionists with him, and the services union isn’t delivering the services.

The Caucus of Working Educators will challenge the long-time incumbents of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers with a platform focused on “racial inequality in schools, increased transparency and democracy within the union, professional development and the fight against standardized testing.” You don’t have to read far on their web site to see the distinctions they draw between themselves and the incumbents.

In New York City the United Federation of Teachers has had opposition caucuses for years, but there is finally a concerted effort to unite all opposing factions against the Unity Caucus, which has dominated the union’s governance since the days of Al Shanker. Philadelphia and New York will require multiple elections to crack, but if they do, you may soon find movement unionists in charge of most of the largest teacher union locals in the country.

Strangely enough, the Friedrichs case, which could put an end to agency fees across the United States, might actually accelerate this trend within the unions. Since teachers and other education employees in the collective bargaining states will no longer be obliged to financially support the union-in-charge, so to speak, they can join the union of their choice, be it movement- or services-oriented.

Activists could get the union they have always wanted, with a muscular social justice agenda and without the baggage of non-believers, apathetics, and the immovable within the ranks. Workaday teachers could get the union they have always wanted, with a single-minded commitment to the daily lives of its members, and agnostic when it comes to DC statehood, abortion, gun control and immigration.

The only thing that could keep the two philosophies in one organization is a defeat for the Friedrichs plaintiffs and a massive education hiring boom that would provide new membership revenues to heal all wounds. People don’t make drastic moves when things are going well.

That type of rescue isn’t on the horizon, however. The end is near for the status quo in the teachers’ unions. What follows will be both better and worse for the rest of us.

Conn-plication. Steve Conn, the former president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, appealed his removal by the union’s executive board and won a majority of the votes cast by the rank-and-file. Unfortunately for all sides, he needed a two-thirds majority to overturn the board’s decision. This leaves DFT with officers unsupported by the majority and an opposition without a path to power.

Conn reportedly will cut this Gordian knot by forming a new union. “We’ll be circulating cards for people to sign to opt out of DFT and join our union because teachers don’t have a union,” Conn said. “We need a union. Teachers will have to opt out of DFT, which is their right.”

The presiding DFT leaders rightly note that it was the union’s opponents who fought long and hard for that right, which in their estimation makes Conn a “union buster.”

The Detroit Free Press reported Conn’s group is “tentatively called the Detroit Teachers Union,” but my guess is there will quickly be a name change when they start trying to put together a web site.


Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 15-21:

* Rumors Fly! NEA Board to Vote on Endorsing Hillary? Jumping aboard a sinking ship?

* What the Hell Just Happened in Seattle? Street theater.

* Conn-undrum. The Detroit Federation of Teachers dug a hole digging itself out of a hole.

* New Mexico’s $2 Million “Insult.” If the union didn’t get it for you, it’s not real money.

* And Just Like That… Seattle slew.

Quote of the Week #1. “They all know me. Everyone knows me.” – Mark McDade, UniServ director for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, after being removed from a Shamokin Area school board meeting because he stormed in and shouted, “Where’s the democracy?” Shamokin board member (and former police chief) Ed Griffiths escorted McDade outside, claiming he didn’t know who he was. (September 17 The Daily Item)

Quote of the Week #2. “He is so crooked that he has to screw his shoes on in the morning.” – Rich Kashnoski, school board member of the Shamokin Area School District, speaking of McDade and suggesting that he, at least, knows him. (September 16

A Lesson in Teacher Strike Math

September 14, 2015

A Lesson in Teacher Strike Math. Members of the Seattle Education Association are on strike for the fourth day today. Teacher strikes are not strictly legal in Washington State, though it requires a court order and several other legal hurdles to put an end to them. No-strike laws are pointless, and particularly pointless in this case, because there is another state law that makes a strike an appealing proposition for the union.

The no-strike law does have some teeth. As demonstrated in Pasco, where the union went on strike on September 1 and was subsequently fined $2,000 for each day it failed to abide by the court’s back-to-work order. The judge warned that individual union officers could also be fined, but the district and union reached a tentative agreement over the weekend. A fine of that size on a union of 1,160 teachers would at first glance seem to be just the thing to spur a settlement. But the Washington Education Association makes $35 million a year, plus there is the NEA, and no doubt there were donations from other union locals and state affiliates across the country. It is extraordinarily difficult to make a union feel financial pain.

Everyone thinks it is the economics of the competing contract proposals that determines the outcome of a strike. In fact, it is the economics of the strike itself.

A beginning teacher in the Seattle Public Schools makes $44,372. The district has a 180-day school year, so that comes to roughly $246.51 each work day. The last reported district contract offer would bring that amount to $259.49 in two years. The union’s last reported offer would bring it to about $270.48 in the same amount of time. That’s almost $2,000 difference by 2017, so the two parties are very far apart.

But teachers don’t get paid during a strike. The four days on strike have already cost our beginning teacher $986. If the strike were to continue for another four days, it would almost completely wipe out the difference between the two offers, meaning the strike would have been for nothing. This would put enormous pressure on the union to settle, since any strike lasting longer than 8 days would result in a net loss for the members.

This doesn’t happen, however, because Washington state law requires 180 days of classroom instruction. The four strike days – plus any additional strike days – will have to be made up by adding instructional days at the end of the school year. The strike can go on for weeks because even though union members may experience short-term discomfort, they know they will ultimately work – and be paid for – those lost days.

Seattle teachers are paid once a month, on the last day of the month, so although they are currently experiencing a paper loss in income, they have not missed a paycheck, and will not unless the strike extends past September 30.

When it comes to strikes, teachers’ unions have an enormous advantage – the school year. Not only does the law mandate that kids have to be in school for a certain amount of time each year, but virtually no other workers are able to make up days lost to strike. If you work 235 days a year and go on strike, you don’t start working on Saturdays and Sundays when the strike is over in order to make up that pay. You just lose it. So the benefit of striking has to greatly exceed the cost to make it worthwhile.

Seattle is labor-friendly, and the Associated Press reports that the cost-of-living in the city is driving the teachers’ demands. But a good chunk of the cost of living in any city is the amount you pay for municipal services, and the additional costs businesses pass on to consumers because of taxes and regulations that come with such forward-thinking policies. The Seattle Education Association may be justified in striking, but the costs will be borne by those who are still hard at work.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 9-14:

* The Atlantic Asks: Can Millennials Save Unions? The Magic 8-Ball says, “Don’t count on it.”

* NEA New Hampshire Endorses Clinton. Get ready for the Vermont NEA New Hampshire border wars.

* CTA’s Mandatory Sales Pitch Bill Looks Dead. Does it come with a free breakfast?

* What Is the Law? Letting your conscience be your guide.

Quote of the Week #1. “While the country’s teaching force is certainly dealing with a staffing problem, a closer look at the numbers shows that shortages are centered in particular subject areas and geographic areas. In fact, there may be too many certified teachers in some fields, such as early-childhood education.” – Laura McKenna, contributing writer for The Atlantic. (September 10 The Atlantic)

Quote of the Week #2. “For the first time in the long history of both organizations, the Louisiana Association of Educators and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers are pooling their resources and funding for a single election cycle. The immediate goal is to communicate to its shared 40,000 or so members, with a universe of influence of three to five (meaning 120,000 to 200,000 potential votes), that nothing matters more than the race for governor—and by extension the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education seats.” – Jeremy Alford, publisher-editor of LaPolitics Weekly. (September 11 Greater Baton Rouge Business Report)

LAE has no more than 10,800 members. LFT has no more than 12,000 members, for a combined maximum of 22,800.

NEA’s Memphis Blues

September 8, 2015

NEA’s Memphis Blues. I thought I was long past the time when I would be writing about issues related to Tennessee and secession, but recent events in the Memphis-Shelby County Education Association (MSCEA) forced my hand.

Chalkbeat Tennessee broke the story of an attempted disaffiliation by MSCEA and its reported 4,500 members from its parent unions, the Tennessee Education Association (TEA) and the National Education Association. TEA has responded by refusing to recognize the move, and creating a new region, TEA West, promising it will continue to provide services to MSCEA members. Chalkbeat helpfully provides the correspondence between the unions, but some background is missing, so let me fill in the gaps.

In 2013, the Memphis city school district merged with the surrounding Shelby County district. This was a controversial measure, and the following year six towns split from the merged district and formed their own school systems. The merger required a corresponding merger between the TEA-affiliated local unions, so that they would not be in competition with each other.

The MSCEA president, Keith Williams, has been described by Chalkbeat as someone who “laces his speech with quips, conspiracy theories and personal attacks.” He stepped down as president in July, and quickly reappeared last month as the MSCEA executive director, replacing Ken Foster, who had held the position for 15 years.

MSCEA hired attorney Michael Floyd, who informed TEA on September 2, “Effective immediately my client has elected not to be affiliated with either the NEA or the TEA.” Floyd also claims the merger of the two locals is not binding because it was “arbitrary, capricious, unconscionable and contrary to the will of the Association members.”

TEA set the stage for a possible takeover by accusing the MSCEA officers of failing to submit to an NEA audit, breaking the merger agreement and forcing Foster from his job. The state union declared “there are serious questions that need to be addressed,” which is about as much of a warning as you will get before they send in the staffers and the locksmiths.

It may not come to that, because it is clear that MSCEA’s declaration of independence is premature. Williams says the board of directors approved the disaffiliation. That’s possible, but the MSCEA constitution states that the local “shall be affiliated with the Tennessee Education Association (TEA) and the National Education Association (NEA)…” Amending the constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the MSCEA representative assembly and lots of notice beforehand. The agenda of the August 11 meeting makes no mention of it.

On the other hand, the last thing TEA and NEA want is a vote on disaffiliation. Recent history shows the measures they will take even if they feel confident of victory.

Instead of actively disaffiliating, perhaps MSCEA should merely fail to fulfill the requirements of affiliation, according to TEA Bylaw Article IV, Section 1. These include annual filing of a list of officers, keeping a current constitution on file with TEA, attendance requirements at annual meetings, and having goals and objectives that “complement those of the Tennessee Education Association.”

The key issue is, of course, money. The one stick of leverage any local has on its state and national parents is that it collects dues money on their behalf. Stop collecting their portion of dues and eventually they have to boot you out. Unfortunately, that will also bring the state and national hammer down faster than anything else.

At this point, how much support disaffiliation has in Memphis and Shelby County is immaterial. My advice would be the same regardless: Start digging trenches.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics September 1-8:

* NEA’s SuperPAC Exposed to Kryptonite. We are the 11-percenters!

* #IAmMySchoolBoard. This solidarity thing works both ways.

* Whodunit? Has a blogger solved the mystery of PO Box 1292?

* Movies For Your Labor Day Weekend. “I’m not gonna force my men to do something they don’t wanna do.”

* You Know What Labor Day Really Means. Time to stock up.

Quote of the Week #1. “The Supreme Court has affirmed what we’ve said all along – charter schools steal money from our existing classrooms, and voters have no say in how these charter schools spend taxpayer funding.” – Kim Mead, president of the Washington Education Association, after the state supreme court ruled charter schools were unconstitutional. (September 4 Courthouse News Service)

Quote of the Week #2. “The KIPP charter network, which runs Spark, gets $16,400 per Spark pupil, of which $12,664 is devoted to the school. The district schools get $19,650 per pupil, but only $9,604 trickles down to the schools. Money that the charter school is spending on extra support is being soaked up by the bloated bureaucracy in the public school system. It is a devastating fact.” – Joe Nocera, columnist for the New York Times, reviewing Dale Russakoff’s new book, The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools? (September 8 New York Times)

Labor Day Sale

August 31, 2015

Labor Day Sale. Many unions like to badmouth the free market, but due to changing conditions it looks as though some are beginning to develop a strong belief in price elasticity.

The Wisconsin Education Association Council was the pioneer, lowering its dues $60 after experiencing a membership loss of 50 percent.

Now the Michigan Education Association, facing a similar future, is promoting a special deal for its members: pay your full dues at the start of the school year and get $30 cash back!

There is some fine print, however. MEA charges most teachers $645, and it is unclear whether rebate-seekers will also have to pony up NEA’s $185 and whatever their local dues might be. And the timeline isn’t exactly expeditious. Members have to pay by October 30, fill out and return a rebate form by December 31, and then receive their $30 check within 90 days after that.

Pay more than $830 in October, get $30 back next March! You can tell these guys are new at the whole marketing thing.

Perhaps because most of their members are in the private sector, the Teamsters have a better handle on this. In concert with the run-up to a representation election for education support employees in Clark County, Nevada, Teamsters Local 14 reduced new member initiation fees from $150 to $35.

Even these modest efforts are rare. Instances of dues being cut to retain members are almost unheard of. The standard response to falling membership is to raise dues, in an attempt to compensate for lost revenues. But we may not be far away from a day when unions start running TV ads and infomercials to pick up business, just like personal injury lawyers and realtors.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 25-31:

* Union President on “Teacher Shortage”: “Who Cares What the Data Says?” Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?

* NLRB Ruling Might Cut Both Ways. Unions might be “joint employers” for all sorts of workers.

* Vegas Election Set: Teamsters vs. NEA. Lopsided.

* Remembering the Obama Years. Back when things were swell.

Quote of the Week. “During this time, there will be hardship. It’s unfortunate. We don’t want to see it. But the alternative was to have a greater hardship, and that is to turn over our health insurance to a for-profit entity.” – John Vellardita, executive director of the Clark County Education Association, explaining why the union’s Teachers Health Trust raised members’ rates in order to pay claims. (August 27 Las Vegas Review-Journal)

EIA Exclusive: NEA Agency Fee-Payers By State & Financial Consequences of Friedrichs Case

August 24, 2015

EIA Exclusive: NEA Agency Fee-Payers By State & Financial Consequences of Friedrichs Case. In its next session the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which challenges a 40-year-old system of compelling non-members to pay an agency fee to public sector unions with exclusive representation rights where they work. Information about agency fee-payers has always been difficult to obtain, but we do know that in the 2014-2015 school year, the National Education Association had more than 100,000 fee-payers.

EIA has obtained an internal NEA document that breaks down that number by state. It is being made public here for the first time. There are currently 20 states that allow agency fees in the public sector. These figures also include the remaining fee-payers in Michigan and Wisconsin, where changes in state law banned such payments, but did not overturn collective bargaining agreements previously made. Eventually there will be no fee-payers in either state.

Alaska – 539
California – 28,323
Connecticut – 542
Delaware – 906
Hawaii – 784
Illinois – 5,939
Maine – 133
Maryland – 3,174
Massachusetts – 4,511
*Michigan – 675
Minnesota – 6,760
Montana – 1,241
New Hampshire – 380
New Jersey – 3,516
New York – 27,117
Ohio – 1,400
Oregon – 3,996
Pennsylvania – 5,491
Rhode Island – 146
Vermont – 763
Washington – 4,099
*Wisconsin – 345

The Oregon Education Association has the largest percentage of agency fee-payers when compared with active members, followed by the California Teachers Association and Education Minnesota. Both in raw numbers and as a percentage, the Maine Education Association has the fewest fee-payers.

NEA also tried to predict the revenue implications of an adverse U.S. Supreme Court decision. The union concluded that for every 5 percent membership loss caused by Friedrichs, NEA would lose approximately $11.5 million annually in dues.

That is a substantial, but hardly devastating amount of money. It does, however, understate the effect. It does not include, for example, the loss of approximately $10 million per year in agency fees themselves. Additionally, a five percent loss of membership in the agency fee states is a very optimistic scenario. The Michigan Education Association has lost more than 16 percent of its active membership in the last five years, and the Wisconsin Education Association Council has lost more than 53 percent.

But NEA’s analysis was only concerned with the effect on the national organization and not on the state affiliates themselves. A five percent loss of revenue in each of the 20 agency fee state affiliates totals almost $42.3 million annually.

There is no way to predict how many current NEA members will opt out of membership if agency fees are abolished, but an average loss of 15 percent in agency fee states would mean a total decrease in revenue to the organization of more than $171 million annually – and that’s without accounting for the finances of local affiliates.

Another unknown is the multiplier effect. Dues money from agency fee states goes to NEA and is redistributed to support organizing, advocacy and union staff compensation in affiliates all across the nation. How will they manage without those funds?

NEA has already begun efforts to mitigate the problems a loss of agency fees will bring, but everyone is working with the unknown. The union will be operating in a competitive market where the individual decisions of hundreds of thousands of teachers and support employees will determine its fiscal health, rather than the provisions of collective bargaining laws and school contracts. How well NEA can pivot will determine whether it will remain a major force in education policy.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 18-24:

* Manic Depression. “Testing mania” is more of a low-grade chronic condition.

* Bubble Wrap. Don’t want to spend so much time and money on testing? Better keep those multiple-choice tests then.

* You Can’t Wipe My Server. Hillary’s 1999 prediction about charter schools.

* Tough Bargaining in Pacific Northwest. Teachers’ unions have their own unions to worry about.

Quote of the Week. “We don’t leave our dogs or kids in the car, but it’s okay to leave a bus driver [in a hot school bus] for 20 minutes while they’re waiting?” – Mitzi Hurt, member of the Oregon School Employees Association doing volunteer work for AFT Alabama, commenting on the lack of school bus air conditioning. (August 19

Following the Alabama Education Association Money Trail

August 17, 2015

Following the Alabama Education Association Money Trail. The Alabama Education Association has had what can charitably be called a rough few years. As its almost uncontested hold on the state legislature began to slip, the union began to engage in various risky political activities like:

+ Sending PAC money to five other PACs, which then donated it to the “True Republican PAC,” which then used it to make media buys using the same Denver-based firm that NEA uses. The ruse was discovered and rendered ineffective.

+ Committing millions of dollars to the GOP primaries, including hundreds of thousands of dollars to National Research Services, a previously unknown firm with a Tennessee post office box that incorporated in Delaware on a Friday and received hundreds of thousands of dollars of AEA PAC money the next Monday. This didn’t pay off either.

+ Using dues money to invest in “high risk stock market ventures,” ultimately resulting in the forced resignation of executive secretary Henry Mabry and an establishment of a trusteeship by the National Education Association. Former AEA officers and staff claim NEA tricked the AEA board into approving the takeover.

Now, with the help of AEA’s IRS filings and other documents, we can put numbers to the amount of financial damage that was done.

In the 2013-14 school year, AEA saw a $450,000 decrease in dues revenue thanks to falling membership. But this didn’t cause money problems because the shortfall was more than matched by the $550,000 increase in contributions and grants from NEA.

Nevertheless, AEA ran an $8.6 million budget deficit, which was 65% more than it collected in dues. Most of this was due to two factors. First was a $2.4 million loss from investments. It is unclear from the available documentation whether the securities lost all value or were liquidated at a substantial loss. In any event, AEA held $6.5 million worth of securities in 2013 and only $914,000 worth in 2014. The union also reported $1.2 million in unrealized losses.

The second budget-buster was the $3.3 million AEA sent to the Gilbraltar Foundation, identified only by a Washington DC PO box. If you never heard of the Gibraltar Foundation, don’t feel bad. No one has. The foundation immediately started spending the money, sending it to organizations like the Alabama Foundation for Limited Government, which was heavily involved in the aforementioned GOP primaries on behalf of AEA’s chosen candidates.

The Gibraltar Foundation later incorporated in DC, and shares the same office space with The Organizing Group, a campaign consulting firm headed by Steve Rosenthal, founder of America Coming Together and former AFL-CIO political director.

“We run full scale campaigns, including campaign planning and budgeting, mail, phones, and door-to-door voter contact; and also can offer individual campaign elements,” reads the firm’s list of services.

The $3.3 million AEA sent to the Gibraltar Foundation was dues money. The union had an additional $2.2 million available in its PAC account.

You will search in vain for any mention of any of this, or the NEA trusteeship, in AEA’s member publication, the Alabama School Journal. The only clue that anything out of the ordinary has been going on is a notice soliciting applications for chief financial officer, a position AEA never had before, and the applications need to be sent to Steven Martinez, who worked as NEA’s associate director of finance and audit for 21 years before becoming CFO of a media and marketing firm.

The audits that led to Mabry’s ouster and the NEA trusteeship have never seen the light of day, and now probably won’t. Union trusteeships are notorious for cutting off the flow of information, so much so that few NEA members know that the union created a still-existing Indiana real estate firm in 2009.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 11-17:

* How to Keep the Union Away? It’s No Secret. Teacher voice.

* Conn-victed. Detroit sends its union president packing.

* Put Those Back On. Held accountable for stealing from the accountability fund.

* Chicago Teachers Union Spanks Novelist. Ouch.

* What Happens in Vegas Could Happen Elsewhere. Reversing the trend.

Quote of the Week. “No one ever entered the profession so they could join a teachers’ union.” – Kim Schroeder, president of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association. (August 14 Deseret News)

Declassified: Indiana and Kentucky Internal Documents

August 10, 2015

Declassified: Indiana and Kentucky Internal Documents. Here are a couple of documents that are of local and regional interest. Earlier this year I posted the membership numbers for every local affiliate of the Oregon Education Association. Now I can post similar numbers for each local of the Indiana State Teachers Association.

The union’s three largest locals last year were Evansville (1,192), Fort Wayne (1,184) and Indianapolis (1,052).

The other document is a brief report from the Kentucky Education Association Program and Budget Committee. The union’s 2015 – 2016 budget is based on an expected membership level of 25,500 active certified and 3,800 education support members.

These and many other internal union documents are available on EIA’s Declassified page.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics August 4-10:

* Shortage-Term Memory. Fool me twice, shame on me.

* Shadow Boxing. Threatening to punch teachers in the face is either despicable or praiseworthy, depending on who’s making the threats.

* All the World’s a Stage. How to get someone to join the union, spelled out.

* UTLA Plans 33% Dues Increase. The revolution must be financed.

Quote of the Week. “I really felt in my heart and my gut that we were going to take Scott Walker down.” – Michael Brown, founder of United Wisconsin, the political action committee that launched the 2012 recall of Gov. Walker. Brown now hunts ghosts in Wisconsin. (August 8 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel).

22 NEA State Affiliates Have Fewer Members Than in 1994

August 3, 2015

22 NEA State Affiliates Have Fewer Members Than in 1994. Last April I did a little historical research and discovered that 20 NEA state affiliates actually lost members from 1994 to 2013. Now that I have the union’s 2013-14 membership numbers available, I am updating that figure to 22.

Recent membership losses in the Georgia Association of Educators and the Tennessee Education Association bring them to levels below where they stood in 1994. Here is the complete list:

Arizona Education Association

Arkansas Education Association

Georgia Association of Educators

Idaho Education Association

Indiana State Teachers Association

Iowa State Education Association

Kansas NEA

Louisiana Association of Educators

Maine Education Association

Mississippi Association of Educators

North Carolina Association of Educators

Oklahoma Education Association

South Carolina Education Association

South Dakota Education Association

Tennessee Education Association

Texas State Teachers Association

Utah Education Association

Virginia Education Association

West Virginia Education Association

Wisconsin Education Association Council

Wyoming Education Association

Federal Education Association

As this list grows, the list of historically healthy state affiliates will shrink by one. The Alabama Education Association was NEA’s sole success story in the South over the last 20 years, but recent events will soon have the organization joining its brethren on life support.

Merger double-counting aside, the number of reliably strong NEA affiliates is whittled down to seven – California, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland and Washington. Absent a remarkable change in fortunes, NEA will start to resemble AFT in that it will have well-defined strongholds (as AFT has in major city school systems) and be virtually invisible elsewhere.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 28-August 3:

* Former Union Officers Revolt Against NEA Trusteeship in Alabama. State media notice uprising against something they didn’t know existed.

* AFT Deposes Florida Local President & Board. Regime change.

* AFT’s Florida Follies. Sun-baked.

* Conn-dign. Comedy’s final act?

Quote of the Week. “Comparing strength to ‘right to work’ status shows that union strength is clearly correlated with whether unions can collect agency fees. (All data are as of 2012.) Eighteen of the twenty strongest-union states allow the collection of agency fees; most of the twenty states where unions are weakest prohibit the practice, though there are a handful of exceptions (Washington, D.C., New Mexico, and Missouri, for example).” – Michael J. Petrilli and Dara Zeehandelaar. (August 3 Education Next)

Y2K: NEA Membership Numbers Essentially the Same – 15 Years Later

July 27, 2015

Y2K: NEA Membership Numbers Essentially the Same – 15 Years Later. The National Education Association has unwittingly demonstrated the limitations of standardized tests. Let’s use a word problem such as we have seen a million times before: If NEA had 2,524,532 members in 1999-2000, and 2,956,532 members in 2013-14, how many more members does NEA have today?

If you said 432,000, you are good at arithmetic but lacking in knowledge about teachers’ unions. The correct answer is: maybe about 5,000 – give or take a few hundred.

How can this be? As I hinted this morning on Intercepts, the national union’s membership growth is almost entirely due to counting American Federation of Teachers members in merged state affiliates, a process NEA began in 1999. This might be acceptable if AFT weren’t also counting the same members in their totals. Even that might be acceptable if those states were paying double dues. But, as was amply demonstrated at this year’s NEA Representative Assembly, their dues and representation on NEA’s elected bodies are proportional to their pre-merger numbers.

At the time of their respective mergers, AFT members in Minnesota (~22,500), Florida (~51,000), Montana (~2,100), New York (~350,000) and North Dakota (~1,400) instantly became NEA members, though they counted toward membership totals and little else. They constitute a fixed number of 427,000 paper members, resulting in an NEA that is virtually the same size as it was in 1999-2000.

We even have mathematical corroboration. In 1999-2000, according to NEA’s financial disclosure reports, the union took in $221,985,292 in dues revenue. In 2013-14, it took in $362,987,725 – an increase in income of 63.5 percent.

But when we take a weighted average of the increase in the NEA dues rate on teachers and education support employees, we find it went up a cumulative 63.0 percent – almost entirely accounting for the extra revenue. In other words, essentially all of NEA’s additional money came from charging existing members more – not by recruiting new education employees.

And there have been a lot of them. In the last 15 years, America’s public education system hired an additional 276,000 teachers and almost as many education support employees. From a pool of perhaps a half-million possible members, NEA added no more than 5,000. I guess you could call them the one-percenters.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 21-27:

* How to Grow NEA Membership. Double count.

* You Get What You Pay For. Quid pro quo.

* Alameda School Board Cuts Out the Middle Man. A year in the making.

* Rhetorical Question. No, no, we can’t have that.

* Defenestration. Should I throw Windows out of a window?

Quote of the Week. “So what’s behind the bump? NEA President Lily Eskelsen García boiled it down to three words: “Organize, organize, organize,” she told Morning Education. “It doesn’t just happen.” Jim Testerman, NEA’s senior director for organizing, said it comes after listening to members and organizing on issues that concern them, like testing and reducing class sizes…. One caveat: The membership numbers aren’t final, Testerman said. NEA affiliates have a few months to clean up their lists while some members retire or resign. More concrete numbers will be available in the fall, he said.” – from a July 8 Politico item headlined “NEA’s Membership Uptick.”

Official NEA State Affiliate Membership Numbers for 2014

July 20, 2015

Official NEA State Affiliate Membership Numbers for 2014. The National Education Association lost an additional 42,000 active members last year, bringing the union’s total losses among working public school employees to more than 310,000 (10.7%) over the past five years.

I have compiled the numbers in a handy table, which provides both the total and active membership for each state affiliate. Active members are employed teachers, professionals and education support workers. Total membership includes retirees, students, substitutes and all others. Along with the numbers are the one-year and five-year changes in those figures.

For quick reference you can refer to this chart as I detail the exact numbers. (Click on chart for better viewing.)


The biggest losers over the five-year period were Arizona and Wisconsin (each with 53.1% active member loss), North Carolina (45.9% loss) and Louisiana (31.5% loss).

Other affiliates with losses of greater than 20% include Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, the District of Columbia and the Utah School Employees Association.

NEA lost 3,000 members from the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly when UHPA disaffiliated. The membership increase in North Dakota is almost entirely due to the merging of the NEA and AFT affiliates in the state. Both national unions count the same members from merged states in their totals.

I have unofficial numbers for 2015 as well. They show additional losses among the weakest affiliates, with the Alabama Education Association added to the list. AEA lost more than 19 percent of its active membership between 2009 and 2014, and appears to have lost another 5,000 members in 2015, bringing its active membership total to about 56,000. NEA established a trusteeship over AEA last May.

These figures also suggest what a post-Friedrichs world will look like. In 2014, NEA affiliates in agency fee states gained about 5,300 active members. In states without agency fees, NEA affiliates lost more than 47,000 active members.

With the exceptions of Illinois and Minnesota, it is difficult to find a healthy NEA state affiliate between New England and the Pacific coast.

In the coming weeks I will have additional figures and analysis on NEA’s membership situation, including a longer-term historical perspective.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics July 9-20:

* Add Boston to the Union Militancy Movement. Will UCORE mean something?

* Endorsement Unites AFT Behind Hillary… If You Believe AFT. The natives are restless.

* Well, That Could Have Gone Better. How the rank-and-file reacted to the Hillary endorsement.

* 35-3. Representative?

* Esquith Tipster Mortified by Events. They can’t run a district, but they can run amok.

* WEAC Falls Below 40,000 Active Members. Act 10 was the final act.

Quote of the Week. “Clearly, NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia wants to claim the mantle of civil rights and social justice — words that are sprinkled throughout her speeches — while simultaneously freeing her members of the responsibilities of improving outcomes for the most vulnerable children.” – Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust. (July 14)

Direct Links to All NEA Representative Assembly Blog Posts

July 13, 2015

Direct Links to All NEA Representative Assembly Blog Posts. In case you didn’t follow along all last week with EIA’s gavel-to-gavel coverage of the 2015 National Education Association Representative Assembly from Orlando, here are the direct links to each post, in chronological order. Enjoy!

Compared to What, When? – How to manufacture a membership increase.

“You Are the Future of Everything” – The mote and the beam.

Membership Math, One More Time – Can’t let it slide.

There’s No Business Like New Business – Pizza and Coke.

What Happened to Playing the Long Game? – In the ashes John Stocks sees pixie dust.

Rebel Yell – A day after unanimously vowing to fight institutional racism, the delegates spent two hours debating whether to support the removal of Confederate flags from public spaces.

I Am Not a Number, I Am a Free Man – It takes The Village.

The Final Few – Eliminating voter ID requirement for NEA elections is referred to committee.

Merged Affiliates Stuck With Status Quo – The delegates really don’t want merged affiliates to get their maximum allotment of representation.

Federalist Sighting! – An unlikely source notices that the powers of the federal government are limited.

A Lesson in Time Management – Good news! NEA can still take Gates money.

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint – Hitting the wall.

This Morning’s Little Ironies – Labor rules save the day and delegates agree to continue to “control the flow of information.”

NEA Opts In to Opt Out – As written, NEA now supports opting out of any test, standardized or not.

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