The National Education Association just filed its 2013-2014 LM-2 filing with the U.S. Department of Labor, and once again, it spent big to preserve its declining influence over education policymaking. The nation’s largest teachers’ unions spent $132 million on lobbying and contributions to what are supposed to be like-minded organizations, a slight increase over the $131 million poured into such activities last year. This, by the way, doesn’t include another $45 million spent on so-called representational activities which are almost always political in nature.
This past fiscal year, NEA poured plenty of money into Democracy Alliance, the secretive progressive group that played a big role in trying to elect Democratic candidates to national and state offices this year. As Dropout Nation reported earlier this month, NEA and AFT have worked hard to pull Democracy Alliance into its fold; this includes NEA Executive Director John Stocks, a longtime player on the organization’s board, becoming its chairman. NEA poured $160,000 to the main organization itself, along with $250,000 into its Latino Engagement Action Fund, $150,000 into its Youth Engagement Fund, and $50,000 into its Committee on States. Altogether, NEA has devoted $610,000 to Democracy Alliance and its main affiliate organizations. Things didn’t work out so well this past Election Day for either Democracy Alliance or NEA; but that won’t stop either from spending plenty this next election cycle.
NEA also continued its co-opting of other progressive groups, many of which are part of Democracy Alliance’s wider network. This includes $150,000 to Progress Now, a member of Democracy Now’s wider network of groups whose past board members included Rob McKay, Stocks’ predecessor as Democracy Now chairman. The union also poured $250,000 into Center for Popular Democracy and its action fund for its campaigns against charter schools and the so-called “privatization” of public education; $235,000 into Progressive States Network; $200,000 into David Brock’s Media Matters for America; $67,000 into Progress Michigan; $25,000 into the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (another member of the Democracy Alliance network); and $25,000 into Netroots Nation. Solidifying its relationship with Democracy Alliance outfits, NEA spent $393,542 with Catalist LLC, the data outfit for the Democratic National Committee that has provided information to the organization’s allies in order to elect progressive-oriented candidates. Center for American Progress, which is a strong reform outfit, received $160,000 from the union.
Meanwhile NEA worked harder to build ties to black and Latino advocacy groups. The big winner this year was the Schott Foundation for Public Education, which has long ago abandoned its once-powerful work on how the education crisis damaged the futures of young black men. Through its Opportunity to Learn Fund, Schott picked up $300,000, or as some can say, a lot of chicken wing money. The dollars from NEA (as well as from AFT, which poured $180,000 into the foundation and into Opportunity to Learn) explain why Schott President John Jackson has become such an enthusiastic backer of the effort by the Big Two to roll back the No Child Left Behind Act’s accountability provisions. NEA gave a considerably smaller $25,000 to NAACP, which has been as ineffective on education policy for traditionalists as it was for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (which gave $1 million to the outfit in 2011 for a policy agenda that it never rolled out, as well as participation in the now-moribund Campaign for High School Equity).
The NEA gave $120,400 to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, while giving $50,000 to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. The union also gave $30,000 to the Board of Hispanic Caucus Chairs; $25,300 to NALEO’s education fund; $15,000 to National Council of La Raza; $15,000 to the National Hispana Leadership Institute; $10,000 to MALDEF; and $7,500 to the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators. A new NEA vassal is the Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, which is working in six states with La Raza, the Service Employees International Union, and NALEO on organizing Latinos to become citizens and voters; it picked up $50,000 from the union this past year. Given that new NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia likes to play upon her Latina heritage, expect the union to pour more money into reaching those communities. As part of the union’s play on immigration reform, it gave $50,000 to the National Immigration Law Center.
Speaking of signatories to NEA’s and AFT’s effort to roll back No Child: The Advancement Project received $75,000 from NEA, while Barnett Berry’s Center for Teaching Quality received $345,000. Education Law Center received $75,000, while the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (a longtime NEA vassal) received a mere $15,000. Even with the sums given to Schott Foundation, NEA spent very little money to gain adherence to its vision, especially from groups that are supposed to look out for the best interests of black and Latino children.
But NEA’s efforts aren’t just limited to that spending. The union poured $9.8 million into its Advocacy Fund super-PAC, which spent big this year to unsuccessfully help Democrats retain seats in North Carolina, Arkansas, and Colorado. The super-PAC itself spent $17 million during the 2013-2014 election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org. Over the past two fiscal years, NEA poured $15.4 million into the Advocacy Fund; whether or not it was money well spent (especially in the minds of younger teachers looking to elevate the profession) is a much-different story.
Among the usual suspects: The Economic Policy Institute picked up a mere $48,000 this past fiscal year, an 81 percent decline from the $250,000 it had received in 2012-2013. Through the University of Colorado Foundation, NEA also donated $250,000 to the National Education Policy Center, whose policy studies also align with the union’s positions. A big winner among usual suspects was the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the outfit whose training programs do little to improve the quality of teaching performance; it picked up $216,904 from NEA coffers. NEA poured $397,195 into the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, which was formed by last year’s merger of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council.
The union gave $7,500 to Joel Packer’s Committee for Education Funding, $10,000 to Rebuild America’s Schools, $160,000 to the National Public Pension Coalition, and $250,000 to Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice. The Republican Main Street Partnership and its Main Street Advocacy Fund picked up $275,000 from the union; while the Learning First Alliance received $121,100.
Just so it can keep support from 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 $77,000 to the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. This shouldn’t be shocking; after all, the selection of teachers of the year is usually more of a popularity contest than one based on objective measures of teacher performance. Since few people give that much thought, NEA can easily gain some goodwill from the spend. It also gave $35,000 to the National Teacher Hall of Fame, and $191,600 to teacher quality reform outfit Teach Plus.
Meanwhile the NEA spent considerable sums propping up busted affiliates. It poured $1.2 million into the insolvent Indiana State Teachers Association; this doesn’t include the $52,571 loan made to the union during that period, or the $880,440 to maintain the building the Hoosier State affiliate occupies across the street from the Indiana Statehouse. Yet somehow ISTA managed to whittle down the money it owes to NEA by $2.4 million (to $13.5million) within the past year. NEA also subsidized the virtually-insolvent Michigan Education Association to the tune of $6.1 million last year, a slight decline over the $6.3 million given to the union and its PAC in 2012-2013; and poured $814,370 into the South Carolina Education Association, which the union had to put into receivership four years ago.
As for the NEA’s top honchos? Now-former president Dennis Van Roekel was paid $541,632, a 32 percent increase over his salary in 2012-2013; while Eskelsen Garcia picked up $345,728, a slight decline over her income last year (but still enough to buy some acoustic guitars for her occasional impromptu folk music performances); and Secretary-Treasurer Rebecca Pringle (now vice president of the union) pulled down $337,618, a 2.5 percent drop over last year. Altogether, the NEA’s big three were paid $1.2 million in 2013-2014, a nine percent increase over the previous fiscal year. [Note that this doesn’t include new Secretary-Treasurer Princess Moss, who pulled down $96,897 as a member of the union’s executive committee.] As Dropout Nation always says, there’s nothing wrong with NEA leaders and their counterparts at the AFT drawing six-figure sums. But remind Van Roekel and successor Eskelsen about their dollars (and the corporate ways the NEA and the AFT engage in their defense of traditionalist policies and thinking) whenever they try to use class warfare rhetoric to oppose systemic reform of American public education.
This statement also applies to the NEA’s 374 staffers earning six-figure sums; by the way, that is five more than in 2012-2013. Among the highly-paid employees: Executive Director Stocks, who pulled down $412,398 in 2013-2014 (a 7.3 percent increase over the previous year); General Counsel Alice O’Brien, whose $233,153 in compensation was slightly lower than last fiscal year; and membership czar Bill Thompson, who was paid $229,878, also a slight decline from last year. NEA top lobbyist Marcus Egan was paid $172,870 in 2013-2014, a 2.3 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. Again, the NEA’s payroll shows that being a teachers’ union official is a lucrative line of work. Again, whether this is working out for teachers, especially given the union’s declining clout, is a different story.
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.