NEA’s Bid to Preserve Influence: $58 Million Spent by Florida, Michigan, and Ohio Affiliates
Dropout Nation will analyze the National Education Association’s latest financial numbers once they come at week’s end. Some affiliates of the nation’s largest teachers’ union have released their disclosures to the U.S. Department of Education and they offer some interesting insight on what it is doing at the state level to preserve declining influence.
The NEA’s Florida affiliate spent $15 million during its 2011-2012 fiscal year on political activities (including lobbying, so-called representational activities that are often geared toward political activity, and contributions to what should be like-minded organizations), a slight decline from the $16 million spent last year. Among the recipients of the Florida Education Association’s largesse: The Sunshine State branch of National PTA, which picked up $10.000 from the union; the PTA affiliate had teamed up with the NEA earlier this year to successfully oppose passage of a proposed Parent Trigger law. Another $1.134 million was poured into the union’s political action committee, which successfully opposed Amendment Eight, which would have allowed for the expansion of school choice by abolishing the state’s religious bigotry-driven and antiquated Blaine Amendment. The Florida affiliate, which is also part of the American Federation of Teachers, got plenty of help for its political activities from the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union; the AFT handed off $404,460 to the NEA unit for its organizing activities, and financially supported efforts such as $69,309 for an effort to organize the Sunshine State’s early childhood education workers. The Florida NEA itself generated a $2.4 million surplus on $56 million in worker’s dues payments.
The NEA’s notoriously bellicose Michigan affiliate, which is struggling financially, managed to spend $21 million on its political activities this past fiscal year. While it devoted a mere $424,485 to financing alliances with other groups, it got a little mileage out of those spends. The Michigan Education Association put $15,000 into Defend Michigan, which worked to oppose Proposition 5, a ballot measure that would have required a two-thirds vote by the Wolverine State legislature to pass tax increases; oddly enough, the union found itself joining common cause with otherwise foe Gov. Rick Snyder on opposing the initiative. Another $215,000 went to the state Democratic Party’s 21st Century Fund, while $33,000 went to Protect Our Jobs, which unsuccessfully pushed the passage of the collective bargaining constitutional amendment contained in Proposition 2. The union managed to do all this while suffering a $12.2 million loss (on $122 million collected forcibly from teachers and other school employees this past fiscal year). One wonders will the union have enough in its own coffers to battle Snyder over his plans to restore the recently-voted down emergency manager law and to overhaul school finance — or will the union have to go to the national NEA for help?
Meanwhile the NEA’s Ohio affiliate spent $22 million on influence-preserving activities in 2011-2012. This included handing out $10,000 to the Great Lakes Center for Education, whose research is almost-wholly subsidized by NEA operations. [The NEA's Michigan affiliate also tossed down $10,000 to the think tank.] The Ohio Education Association also gave $10,000 to the Education Tax Policy Institute, a think tank that serves the interests of NEA and AFT affiliates and traditional districts alike; two years ago, ETPI attempted a “rebuttal” of a Brookings Institute report that called for consolidation of the Buckeye State’s districts. The Ohio NEA made sure to continue co-opting progressive groups, handing $10,000 to One Ohio Now, $34,052 to Progress Majority, and $20,000 to Progress Ohio, which worked with the NEA branch and other public sector unions last year on passing a referendum ending Gov. John Kasich’s successful abolition of collective bargaining. The union’s biggest spend was on Voters First Ohio, a coalition group that includes the state branch of the League of Women Voters and the NAACP. The NEA gave $1.4 million to the coalition to unsuccessfully support Issue 2, a voter referendum that would have ended the penchant of legislators to engage in gerrymandering. Well, at least the union supported one good cause. The union did manage to generate a $5 million surplus on $106 million in forced union dues collections from teachers.
One can easily say all three NEA affiliates pay their top bosses well. Florida NEA President Andrew Ford picked up $242,069 in 2011-2012, a slight increase over the $239,719 paid to him in 2010-2011; while his counterpart in Michigan, Steven Cook, was paid $219,376, slightly less than the $228,799 he picked up in the previous year serving as number two to retired predecessor Iris Salters. As for Ohio? Patricia Frost-Brooks was paid $267,916 last fiscal year,, almost double the $148,211 she was handed in 2010-2011. As both national NEA boss Dennis Van Roekel and his counterpart, Randi Weingarten, can attest, being a teachers’ union boss can reap rather, umm, sweet corporate benefits. Keep that in mind whenever any of them engage in class warfare rhetoric.