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The National Education Association filed its 2012-2013 LM-2 financial disclosure to the U.S. Department of Labor, and once again, the nation’s largest teachers’ union spent big to preserve its influence over education policymaking. The NEA spent $131 million on lobbying and contributions to like-minded groups  in 2012-2013, a four percent increase over its $125 million spend in the previous year. These numbers don’t include the $51 million the union spent in 2012-2013 on so-called representational activities, which are often just as much geared toward political activity; that number, by the way, is little changed from spending levels in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012.

wpid-threethoughslogoAn analysis of the NEA’s spending shows that while it attempts to use some strategy in order to leverage its contributions to like-minded groups, it remains as scatter-shot as it has been in previous years. Over the past year, the NEA has attempted to get social justice groups it funds to echo its messaging and work more-closely with it in order to advance its agenda. This included meetings between the union’s executive director, John Stocks, with the top executives of past and current recipients. All this effort, however, has not ensured that NEA recipients are any more loyal to the union’s mission than at any other time.

For example, the NEA handed $30,000 to the Leadership Council for Civil and Human Rights, one of the leading civil rights-based players in the school reform movement, and dropped $75,000 into the National Council of La Raza’s political action fund even though the outfit is also a major reform player. Another recipient of NEA largesse is Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. It picked up $100,000 from the union in 2012-21013 in spite of the civil rights leaders longtime support of expanding the very charter schools the NEA opposes, $75,000 more than in the previous fiscal year.

The NEA continues its efforts to co-opt old-school civil rights outfits, albeit on a smaller scale. The NEA only gave $5,000 to Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition; Jackson’s group already collects considerable sums from the rival American Federation of Teachers. The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, a longtime recipient of NEA largesse, received $51,050 from the union’s coffers; that is less than the $60,000 it received in the previous fiscal year. The NEA gave $20,000 in chicken wing money to the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, while doling out $10,000 to the National Alliance of Black School Educators. The black fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi received $10,000 from the union this past fiscal year.

The NEA also seems to be looking to co-opt groups that are major players in fast-growing Latino communities — including the Latino immigrant households for which systemic reform would be the most beneficial at the union’s expense. The union gave $125,000 to the National Latino Engagement Action Fund, which aims to mobilize Latino communities through voter registration drives and other efforts. Another voter registration group, Vote Latino Action Fund, received $110,000 from the union for its get out the vote effort. The NEA also handed $65,000 to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute; this is the first time the nonprofit arm of the congressional caucus has received more money than its CBC rival. The National Latino/a Education Research and Policy Project, a unit of the University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Center for Education Policy focused on recruiting aspiring teachers from Latino communities, picked up $50,000 from the union. The NEA also spent $25,000 on advertising and other public relations costs with Latino Publishing LLC’s Latino magazine.

Meanwhile the NEA’s successful co-opting of progressive groups continued unabated. It gave $332,000 to Progress Now; $100,000 to Progressive States Action, an affiliate of the Progressive States Network; and $25,000 to Committee on States, whose goal is the “strengthening of sustainable, state-based progressive political networks.” Another progressive group, Democracy Alliance, picked up $85,000 from NEA coffers this past fiscal year; the Massachusetts branch of the Fair Share Alliance also picked up $25,000 in NEA cash. The union also gave $10,000 to Good Jobs First, an outfit known for toeing the line of private- and public-sector unions. Engaging in class warfare rhetoric against companies (even though the NEA itself is among the nation’s most-influential corporations with even more clout than most Fortune 500 firms), the union gave $100,000 to the Corporate Action Network’s action center unit. The union also gave $25,000 to Netroots Nation, and $30,000 to the Leadership Center for the Common Good Action Fund, one of the now-defunct ACORN’s many spinoffs.

The NEA also sought out other alliances in order to preserve its declining influence. It gave $200,000 to CASA in Action, a leading player in rightfully advancing immigration reform, and shelled out $100,000 to Committee for American Fairness, which focuses on combating health care fraud and the swindling of senior citizens. Playing on the battle over recognizing same-sex marriages, the NEA also gave $300,000 to Marylanders for Marriage Equality, which helped successfully pass an Old Line State constitutional amendment last year allowing for gay marriages; Marriage Equality Rhode Island, a group working to make gay marriage a reality in that state, picked up $20,000 from NEA coffers. The union also poured $175,220 into the organization charged with building and maintaining the Martin Luther King National Memorial in Washington, D.C., and doled out $112,500 to People for the American Way, the old-line left-leaning group.

Attempting to maintain support among the very teachers it is supposed to represent — and looking to show that it cares about elevating the teaching profession it debases through its defense of quality-blind seniority-based privileges and reverse-seniority layoff rules — the NEA gave $73,500 to the National Network of State Teachers of the Year; that the selection of teachers of the year is usually more of a popularity contest than one based on objective measures of teacher performance is often conveniently ignored by  all but the most thoughtful of observers, and thus, serves as a good way to spend union funds.

As for the usual suspects? The NEA gave $250,000 to the Economic Policy Institute, whose reports (including the shoddy work of its Broader Bolder Approach unit) always dovetail with the views of the union and the rival AFT. The union also gave $588,490 to the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, which is charged with overseeing the quality of the nation’s university schools of education; for all the NEA’s declarations that it wants to reform how aspiring teachers are recruited and trained, it continues to subsidize the outfits responsible for the slipshod quality of training by the nation’s ed schools. Joel Packer’s Committee for Education Funding picked up a $17.500 check from the NEA, while Rebuild America’s Schools received $20,000 from the union.

Meanwhile the NEA spent considerable sums propping up its busted affiliates. It has lent $462,845 to the Indiana State Teachers Association, which is currently under the national union’s receivership, last year; the affiliate now owes $17 million to the parent union. The NEA also gave the affiliate $144,722 for member litigation costs, $170,000 for so-called member communications activities, and $899,324 in Uniserve and non-Uniserv grants. Considering that former Indiana NEA affiliate board member Glenda Ritz is now the Hoosier State’s Superintendent for Public Instruction, the sums the national union is spending to prop up the unit can be considered well-spent. The NEA also took care of the Michigan Education Association, whose liabilities of $181 million for 2012-2013 are far greater than its assets of $69 million; it provided the Wolverine State affiliate $3.7 million in Uniserv and non-Uniserv grants and $1.3 million for member litigation costs. This, by the way, doesn’t include the $1.3 million the NEA gave to the Michigan affiliate for advocacy efforts to beat back reforms put in place by Gov. Rick Snyder and his allies in the state legislature.

As for NEA’s top leaders: President Dennis Van Roekel was paid $411,172 in 2012-2013, a 5.5 percent increase over his pay in the previous fiscal year, while number two Lilly Eskelsen Garcia was paid $347,751 (a 4.6 percent increase over the previous year), and Secretary-Treasurer Rebecca Pringle pulled down $346,436, a 4.2 percent increase over the previous year. These increases come a year after the NEA laid off staff and sent longtime employees into early retirement. Altogether, the NEA’s top three leaders were paid $1.1 million in 2012-2013, little changed from the previous year. As Dropout Nation noted last year, there’s nothing wrong with NEA leaders and their counterparts at the AFT drawing six-figure sums. But remind Van Roekel and his team about their dollars (and the very, umm, corporate ways the NEA and the AFT engage in their defense of traditionalist policies and thinking) whenever they try to use class warfare rhetoric in opposing systemic reform.

Dropout Nation will provide additional analysis of the NEA’s financial filing later this week. You can check out the data yourself by checking out the HTML and PDF versions of the NEA’s latest financial report, or by visiting the Department of Labor’s Web site.

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