"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, December 06, 2015

NEA's Gifting and Grifting

In the months leading up to the passage of ECCA last week in the House, both teacher unions, NPE, and FairTest have carried out a ceaseless campaign to make sure that the new states version on ESEA gets through Congress.  Last week AFT and NEA send out email reminders to members, reminding them to call Congress and urge passage of this deeply flawed anti-teacher and anti-public school bill.  

As it turns out, there is good reason for FairTest and NEA to be embrace the same neoliberal agenda: they share from the same pile of money, though the FairTest share would hardly seem enough to buy their fealty.

At the U. S. Department of Labor, you may find budgets for all U. S. unions, along with a list of their payees and other expenditures.  Last year NEA reported that they gave $40,000 directly to FairTest as part of "national partnership grant."  Of course, it is hard to say how much more FairTest received through any of the swarm of NEA groups started up to conceal the origin of NEA cash handouts. 

What was truly surprising to me was how much of the money from the $370,000,000+ that teachers pay in to NEA every year goes to NEA Administration.  Administration costs are higher than political activities and lobbying, representative activities, or overhead.  NEA spends a whopping $56,831,793 for admin, and another $60+ million for benefits.  Easy come, easy go:
NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia collected $416,633 in 2014-2015, a 21 percent increase over the previous year, and more than enough money to buy herself some new guitars. The union’s number two, Becky Pringle, was paid $371,278, a 10 percent increase over 2013-2014; while Secretary-Treasurer Princess Moss was compensated to the tune of $429,851, a three-fold increase over her previous salary as a member of the union’s executive committee. Altogether, NEA’s big three collected $1.2 million in 2014-2015, barely budging over previous year’s levels. Not one thing wrong with NEA leaders drawing six-figure sums. But the high salaries (and the corporate ways the NEA and the AFT engage in their defense of traditionalist policies and thinking) should be kept in mind any time Eskelsen Garcia and AFT counterpart Weingarten use class warfare rhetoric to oppose systemic reform of American public education.

The corporate nature of NEA can be seen in the 395 staffers earning six-figure sums, a 21-person increase over levels in 2013-2014. Among the big check collectors is Stocks, who earned $407,264, a slight decline over the previous year; another is Alice O’Brien, NEA’s general counsel, who picked up $242,768, or 4.1 percent more than last year. The union’s membership czar, Bill Thompson, collected $271,024; that’s 17.9 percent more than in 2013-2014. Marcus Egan, one of the union’s top lobbyists, was compensated to the tune of $181,968, a 5.3 percent increase over the previous year.
Below is part of NEA's statement from last year.  Note their net assets amount to nearly a third of a billion dollars.  Imagine what pressure could be brought to bear if NEA were interested in ending school segregation, high stakes testing, or corporate control of public schools.

So when FairTest's measly 40K is compared to the overall budget and other handouts in the millions, it looks meager.  For instance, NEA handed over almost $2 million to BetterLesson, Inc., which is a partnership between NEA and the Gates Foundation to create and distribute Common Core lessons across the country.  I guess you may say that NEA knows how to leverage.

In case you think I am picking on NEA, we are having a look at AFT's books.  If you are still wondering how AFT came to be the hurried endorser of Hillary for President, you must know that AFT has been in the Clinton camp a long time.  Most recently, AFT gave $250,000 to the Clinton Global Initiative this year and $250,000 to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation last year:



  1. Anonymous2:30 PM

    Weingarten is paid more to run a smaller union. The $500,000 dispensed to the Clintons could have been put to better use in my opinion.

    Abigail Shure

  2. Randi Weingarten has been heavily involved with the Clinton Global Initiative. See
    Which Side Are You On? | Defend Public Education!

  3. FairTest's entire budget was about $150,000 in 2013. So $40,000 may indeed be enough to buy its fealty.