NEA: Dues Up, Membership Down
Delegates at the Atlanta National Education Association (NEA) convention voted to increase teachers’ dues by three dollars. The dues increase will go directly to a “special fund” called “Great Public Schools,” which the NEA leadership will allocate to certain union affiliates in amounts they determine. Delegates added the caveat that union leaders must inform them as to how this money is spent.
Full-time union teachers will pay $179 in national dues for the 2013-14 school year. This is in addition to dues paid to their state affiliate; for Ohio Education Association members, state dues are an additional $508. Ohio is not a right-to-work state, so most teachers must join the union. In Virginia, a right-to-work state, fewer than 20% of teachers join the union.
While the NEA is still the largest workers union in the nation, membership is down. Some teachers choose to quit the union as state laws change to allow this. The union is more socially liberal than the majority of teachers and some do not subscribe to the radical union agenda. Union President Dennis Van Roekel still claims three million NEA members, but the modified 2013-14 NEA Strategic Plan and Budget predicts 2,410,200 full-time members. Of those, 1,685,000 are “active teaching professionals.” The balance is made up of those who do not pay as much in dues as teachers such as education support professionals, staff, substitutes, retired, and student members. Total NEA annual dues amount to over $347 million.
The union Executive Committee received a 3% bonus at a time when other budget areas are being cut. Some union members were unhappy about this. Delegates at the 2013 convention passed New Business Item 47, which demands that union leadership provide justification for any future bonus they receive.
Other new business items adopted at the Atlanta convention include affirmations that the NEA and its members will: lobby for the Keep Student Loans Affordable Act; promote access to after-school programs for preschool children; oppose new parent trigger laws; publicize “undocumented immigrant” student activism; advocate for educators who are “victimized because of their accent, culture, and country of origin”; and push to include “Africa in Antiquity” curriculum for awareness of “Africa’s role in creating math, science, philosophy, literature, and maritime travel.”
Delegates adopted a new business item stating that the NEA will publish information about efforts of pro-firearms groups that push for “guns and/or weapons training” in schools. The rationale given was that “efforts of the National Rifle Association and other groups to arm public school teachers and others as a response to highly-publicized school shootings is misguided. More guns in schools make them less safe.”
The NEA convention has never been known for sticking to education issues. Along with a measure concerning the cholera epidemic in Haiti, delegates approved new business items concerning: genetically modified organisms; lead contamination; a raise in the federal minimum wage; raising awareness of institutional racism; advocating for the Social Security Fairness Act; and stopping “assaults on” voting rights.
Another New Business item passed called for “a change in the nation’s course and priorities by endorsing a national budgetary strategy that increases tax revenues from the wealthy and large corporations, [and] emphasizes conversion from military spending to peace time employment,” with future spending focused on social programs.
The union also agreed to “commit resources to mobilize people around the country” to march on Washington, D.C. in support of Civil and Immigration Rights on August 28.