As Dropout Nation detailed yesterday in its initial analysis of the National Education Association’s 2012-2013 financial disclosure to the U.S. Department of Labor, grants and donations to supposedly like-minded groups made up a large portion of the $131 million the union spent to preserve its influence. But the NEA also used its money to support its own efforts and that of its state affiliates — especially in Michigan and Ohio — to defend the deals struck with state governments and districts that are the source of the clout it wields.
In the Wolverine State, the NEA handed over $400,000 to Defend Michigan Democracy, a now-defunct group which opposed Proposal 1, a ballot measure that would have validated Gov. Rick Snyder’s successful effort to greatly expanded the scope of emergency financial managers throughout the state such as then-Detroit Public Schools czar Roy Roberts; the NEA’s contribution was on top of the $120,000 given to the group by its notoriously-belicose Wolverine State affiliate, the Michigan Education Association, and the $250,000 given to the union by the American Federation of Teachers. Defend Michigan Democracy succeeded in defeating Proposal 1, 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 NEA’s spending in Michigan extended beyond supporting Defend Michigan Democracy and its $1.3 million in subsidies to the Wolverine State affiliate for its efforts to halt reform. The union gave $585,000 to the Michigan League of Responsible Voters, a group also opposing Proposal 1 whose backers included the AFT’s state affiliate and other public-sector union players. It also dumped $1.5 million into Protect Our Jobs, whose effort to win voter passage of Proposal 2, a constitutional amendment which would have enshrined collective bargaining in the state constitution, went down to defeat. All in all, the NEA scored some defensive victories, but didn’t make much in the way of lasting gains, especially in light of Snyder’s success in passing a new round of reforms this year — including a law allowing for the state to shut down financially failing districts.
In Ohio, the NEA gave $1.4 million to Moving Ohio Forward, which advocated for Democratic candidates who supported the union’s efforts against Gov. John Kasich’s school reform efforts; this is on top of the $500,000 the union gave to the group in 2011-2012. Moving Ohio Forward did plenty of spending. This included an ad campaign for three state house candidates, school board member Heather Bishoff, and teachers Donna O’Connor and Maureen Reedy; only Bishoff managed to win her state legislative race. It also poured $50,000 into Innovation Ohio, a group which seems to issue education studies that dovetail nicely with the union’s own agenda. The NEA also spent $5 million to prop up its Ohio affiliate, the Ohio Education Association; without the funds, the Ohio affiliate’s $2.7 million loss (on $100 million of forced teacher dues collected) would have been even larger.
The NEA’s political spending wasn’t limited to Rust Belt states. In Washington State, NEA gave $250,000 to People for Our Public Schools, which unsuccessfully opposed Initiative 1240, which ended the state’s embarrassing status as one of the few that didn’t allow for the existence of public charter schools. The union also gave $200,000 to Class Size Counts, the class size reduction campaign operated by its Washington State affiliate; in spite of the evidence that shows that class size reductions yield little results in improving student achievement, the NEA wants to make sure that its Evergreen State affiliate can increase revenue by requiring districts to hire more teachers (who must then pay dues to the union regardless of their desire to do so).
In Pennsylvania, where the NEA’s affiliate is battling with Gov. Tom Corbett over reductions in state education spending and the governor’s plan to ditch the Keystone State’s virtually-busted defined-benefit pension, the union gave $650,000 to Pennsylvanians for Accountability, a group which has been doing the union’s work in trashing Corbett’s agenda. In Florida, where the affiliate the NEA controls with the AFT is battling fiercely with Gov. Rick Scott and reformers unified under Scott’s predecessor (and rival), Jeb Bush, the union gave $250,000 to progressive outfit Florida Watch Action, and handed over $500,000 to the state affiliate’s Public Education Defense Fund. And in Georgia, the NEA gave $310,000 to Partnership for Public Integrity, a group which doesn’t seem to exist other than for a post office box at a UPS Store in the suburban Atlanta city of Milton. More than likely, the dollars were used to unsuccessfully oppose Gov. Nathan Deal’s effort to amend the state constitution to allow for the state to authorize public charter schools.
In South Dakota, the NEA poured $683,000 into No on 16 Campaign, the group which successfully opposed Referred Law 16, which would have abolished near-lifetime employment for teachers and established a performance pay plan. In Minnesota, the union gave $300,000 to Our Vote Our Future, which also helped beat back a proposed voter identification amendment. The NEA also gave $75,000 to Educating Maryland’s Kids, the outfit which helped pass the Old Line State’s DREAM Act allowing undocumented immigrant children to get funding to attend state universities; and $15,000 to Protect New Hampshire’s Constitution, which opposed three ballot measures not favorable to the interests of its state affiliate; the NEA’s Advocacy Fund super-political action committee also spent $15,883.64 on opposing the ballot measures, according to data from the Secretary of State’s office. The NEA also gave $450,000 to Quality Education and Jobs, an Arizona group which failed in its effort to pass Prop. 204, which would have required the Grand Canyon State to levy a one-penny sales tax in order to increase school funding. In a display of chutzpah, Quality Education and Jobs complained on its Facebook page that the amendment was defeated because of out-of-state funding from so-called “dark money lords”.
All this spending, by the way, doesn’t include the $70.1 million spent by the NEA and its affiliates during the 2011-2012 election cycle, according to a Dropout Nation analysis of data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics. This amount, is more than the $59 million spent during the same period by the Service Employees International Union, or the $34.5 million spent by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.
Meanwhile the NEA is still doing plenty on the national political front. It poured $5.6 Million into its Advocacy Fund super-PAC in 2012-2013; this may include the $300,000 OpenSecrets.org reports that the union has put so far into the super-PAC during the 2013-2014 election cycle. The NEA has also bought itself plenty of help from political consultants. This includes $215,000 to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center; $141,044 to progressive-oriented mobile communications outfit Revolution Messaging; $762,757 to the New Media Firm, whose boss, Will Robinson, helped the NEA and other public sector unions defeat Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s effort to abolish collective bargaining; and $1.3 million on direct-mail help from the now-defunct Mack/Crounse Group. The NEA also spent $141,727 on help from Fort Worth-based consultants Angle Mastagni Mathews, which helped the union and its New Hampshire affiliate make get-out-the-vote calls for seven of their favorite state legislative candidates.
As for the NEA’s bottom line? It generated $387 million in 2012-2013, little changed from revenue levels in the previous fiscal year, thanks in part to a two percent decline in membership (from 3.2 million to 3.1 million) during the period. This included $1.7 million from NEA Member Benefits, the controversial affiliate that peddles annuities and other financial instruments to its members, an 11 percent decline from the previous fiscal year; NEA Member Benefits did manage to earn a profit of $4.5 million for 2011-2012, according to its filing with the Internal Revenue Service, versus a loss in the previous year. The NEA generated a $44 million surplus for 2012-2013, a 72 percent increase over the previous year. This can be credited to a 13 percent decline in the union’s payroll (from $77 million in 2011-2012 to $67 million in 2012-2013) resulting from laying off staff and sending some of its high-cost employees into early retirement; this included 68 staffers earning six-figure sums.
Still, the NEA managed to keep 369 employees earning six-figure sums on the payroll. That group includes Executive Director John Stocks, who pulled down $384,320 in 2012-2013 (a 1.3 percent increase over the previous fiscal year); General Counsel Alice O’Brien, whose $237,495 was 3.9 percent more than in the previous fiscal year; and membership czar Bill Thompson, who earned $235,152 (a nine percent increase over the previous year). Marcus Egan, one of the NEA’s top lobbyists on Capitol Hill, picked up $169,011 in 2012-2013, a 25 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. Once again, the NEA’s payroll shows that it can be a very good life for teachers’ union officials who like to engage in class warfare rhetoric.