As you already know, the American Federation of Teachers has filed its LM-2 disclosure with the U.S. Department of Labor — and that it tossed $32 million during the 2012-2013 fiscal year in order to preserve its declining influence over education policymaking. One of the key ways the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union has worked feverishly to maintain its clout is by spending heavily against efforts by school reformers and cost-conscious governors to overhaul how teachers are paid as well as revamp failing districts. And last fiscal year, much of that time was spent in Michigan and Pennsylvania with mixed results.
Last year, the AFT teamed up with the National Education Association and other public-sector unions to successfully defeat Proposal 1, a ballot measure that would have validated Gov. Rick Snyder’s successful effort to get the Wolverine State legislature to greatly expanded the scope of emergency financial managers thoughout the state such as then-Detroit Public Schools czar Roy Roberts. The AFT poured $250,000 into Defend Michigan Democracy, a now-defunct group that focused on defeating that law along with another ballot measure that would have required have required a two-thirds vote by the Wolverine State legislature to pass tax increases. The AFT also put $252,427 into Protect Our Jobs, which unsuccessfully pushed the passage of the collective bargaining constitutional amendment contained in Proposition 2, and donated $5,000 to the Change Agent Consortium, a group whose members include other public-sector unions. The efforts, along with the mileage the AFT and its president, Rhonda Weingarten, garnered last year from holding its convention in Detroit, certainly gave the union a much-needed defensive victory as well as burnished its bona fides with Baby Boomers in the union annoyed with Weingarten’s oft-failing efforts to triangulate the school reform movement.
As part of its efforts in Michigan, the AFT put resources into its Michigan affiliate. It poured $1.3 million into its Michigan affiliate during 2012-2013; this included $140,776 to the unit’s “solidarity fund” and $240,828 for political activities related to efforts to beat back reformers in the Wolverine State. This, by the way, is more than the AFT pours into any other affiliate other than New York State United Teachers (which received $12 million from the parent union, both directly and through its political action committee, in 2012-2013). Altogether, the AFT has poured $2.7 million into the Michigan affiliate over the past two fiscal years; only its Empire State affiliate, which received $26 million (both directly and through its political action committee) during that period, has been subsidized by the national union to such levels. But the AFT’s efforts have not just been limited to Michigan. Through its Great Lakes regional office and a separate regional organizing project, the union has poured $599,991 into efforts to beat back reformers, engage in organizing activities, and build up support among the rank-and-file. The AFT also gave $155,000 to the political action committee controlled by its notoriously bellicose Chicago Teachers Union local, and put down another $211,000 into the political action committee of its Cook County unit.
Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, the AFT has worked with its Keystone State affiliate to challenge school reform efforts as well as take on moves by Gov. Tom Corbett to reduce education spending. These efforts, along with the move by Philadelphia’s traditional district to shut down 23 schools, was why Randi has spent time in the state (including getting herself arrested by police back in March during a protest at the district’s board meeting). The union poured $696,256 into the Pennsylvania affiliate, including $238,670 for political activities. The AFT also found outfits willing to take its contributions. Youth United for Change, which has held protests against Corbett’s budget moves, received $25,000 from the AFT, while ACTION United picked up $25,252 from union coffers. The AFT didn’t provide very much in money to the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, its affiliate in the City of Brotherly Love; it gave just $55,240 to the union. But the AFT did spend $11,158 on services from Ceisler Media and Advocacy, a public relations consultancy which counts the Philadelphia local as one of its clients.
Meanwhile the AFT is stepping up its union organizing and political ground game activities throughout the nation. It poured $268,214 into the Dallas Organizing Project, and $214,920 into the Houston Organizing Project. In Birmingham, where the traditional district has been taken over by the Alabama state government after decades of failure, the AFT put $155,690 into an organizing project run by its local there. In Shreveport, La., the union poured $236,244 into the Caddo Organizing Project; the AFT local spent last year successfully fighting HB 609, a bill that would have allowed Louisiana to create new school districts, including one in Caddo Parish that would have allowed some families to escape the low-performing traditional district. [While the bill passed, it didn’t get the two-thirds vote needed to become law.] In Florida, the AFT spent $586,109 on various union organizing projects as well as funding the state affiliate it controls along with the NEA, the Florida Education Association; this doesn’t include the $414,353 in subsidies (in the forms of rebates and funding for legal assistance) provided by the AFT to the affiliate. The AFT is particularly focused on organizing teachers and other workers serving in the nation’s early childhood education and pre-kindergarten programs. The union spent $218,763 on organizing early childhood education workers in New Mexico, and spent another $143,954 on a similar project in Florida.
A big spend for the union came in Colorado, where the AFT poured $658,905 into Colorado WINS, a consortium of public-sector unions focused on preserving and even boosting their lucrative compensation arrangements with state and local governments. Thanks to the fact that Democrats control the governor’s mansion and both state legislative houses, the spend yielded results: In July, Colorado handed out wage increases of as much as 4.4 percent to public-sector employees; this came even as organizations such as the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government warned that a modest increase in tax revenue driven in part by efforts to avoid paying higher federal taxes as a result of the American Taxpayer Relief Act would not be long-lasting. As you would expect, the AFT touted this success on its site.
All of this influence maintenance takes money — and the AFT is getting less of it. It generated revenue of $321 million in 2012-2013, a two percent decline over the previous year. The decline marks the second straight year of decline. Forced dues collections in the form of a per-capita tax on members at the local level was $144 million, a 17 percent decline; given that this decrease, like a decline in 2010-2011, occur during years when the AFT is not fully engaged in national or state political activities, it is likely that dues payments will spike up again in 2013-2014.
The AFT has developed a habit of borrowing massive sums to tide it over. It borrowed $117 million through its line of credit with SunTrust Bank during 2012-2013, of which all but $2 million was repaid; this was similar to what happened in 2011-2012, when the AFT borrowed $88 million and repaid most of it back. Without the borrowing (which accounted for 36 percent of reported revenue), AFT generated $203 million in 2012-2013, a 15 percent decline over the $238 million generated (excluding debt borrowings) during the previous year. The AFT spent $35 million on overhead, a 6.5 percent increase over 2011-2012. At the same time, the union has the kind of troubles with retirement costs with which states and districts are struggling. The union’s post-retirement liabilities were $31 million, a 20 percent increase over levels in 2011-2012.
You can check out the data yourself by checking out the HTML and PDF versions of the AFT’s latest financial report, or by visiting the Department of Labor’s Web site. Dropout Nation will provide additional analysis of AFT finances in the coming days.