In its newly released strategic plan and budget proposal, the National Education Association (NEA) predicts it will lose roughly 128,000 members over the next two years.
The anticipated loss appears to be largely attributed to potential layoffs related to COVID-19, although it’s worth noting the number of teachers financially supporting the NEA was declining even before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME (2018) that public employees can no longer be forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment.
Immediately after Janus, the union saw a 2.4 percent decline in total dues- and fee-payers, and more recent reports show the NEA has continued to lose tens of thousands of members from a combination of disaffiliations by dissatisfied locals — most notably in Nevada and California — and individual membership resignations.
In states where the Freedom Foundation actively informs public employees of their rights under Janus, the number of teachers who choose to opt out of paying union dues and fees continues to rise.
District-provided payroll data in California suggests greater membership losses for the California Teachers’ Association (CTA) than publicly reported, and federal reports reveal that more than 7,000 teachers and school employees in Pennsylvania have stopped paying the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) within the past year.
Other sources indicate the teachers’ union has seen similar membership declines in Oregon and Ohio.
It’s true COVID-19 layoffs will likely add to the NEA’s membership slide, but while teachers may be expected to lose their jobs, NEA executives are giving themselves a hefty pay increase.
The NEA’s proposed budget boosts President Lily Eskelsen García’s base salary from $311,138 to $320,783 (although federal reports reveal her actual compensation is $429,569), and offers similar raises to the union’s vice president and secretary-treasurer over the next two years.
The union also plans to increase its spending in the political arena.
Under its strategic initiative to “Secure the Environment to Advance the Mission of the NEA and its Affiliates” — an objective “target(ing) federal, state and local political and issue campaigns” — the NEA has allocated $77 million for each of the next two years, up by $4.59 million from its previous budget proposal.
All told, the NEA anticipates a bigger budget in years to come — and it plans to squeeze every last drop of dues from its remaining members to get it.
To offset the financial losses incurred by boasting fewer members, the union plans to increase dues by $4 per teacher and $2 per classified school employee. While that may not sound like much, it certainly adds up — and it makes no small difference for the teachers paying it, either, when you consider they already pay over $1,000 in dues in many cases.
It would be one thing if it were all spent wisely. But in states like Pennsylvania and Washington, NEA affiliates — let alone the NEA itself — are rife with example after example of union misspending and politicking, often in ways that are completely unrelated to the union’s purported responsibilities of workplace representation.
Perhaps the lack of accountability from out-of-touch union leaders is one reason why affiliates in Nevada and California left the NEA, and why an increasing number of teachers are choosing to exercise their rights under Janus to keep their hard-earned money for themselves.
After all, if they don’t, the union coffers will likely demand more of it next year.