Green Room

NEA to “Reorganize” Amid Unprecedented Membership Losses, Budget Shortfalls

posted at 5:41 pm on May 29, 2012 by

A year after declaring “we are at war” the National Education Association appears to be setting up camp in Valley Forge, with a long, hard winter ahead.

With five weeks to go before the union’s annual representative assembly, NEA is painting a financial and membership picture that delegates could scarcely imagine just a few short years ago. Last year, NEA secretary-treasurer Becky Pringle warned the assemblage, “We have to assume we haven’t hit bottom yet.” Having constructed the union’s budget for the next two years, she will be able to repeat that warning.

According to multiple sources within the NEA leadership, the union is reporting a loss of 150,000 members over the past two years, and is projecting a further loss of more than 200,000 members over the next two years. The total reduction in revenue to the national union over the years 2010-2014 amounts to $65 million – about one-sixth of its original budget.

NEA’s dues level is set by a formula tied to the average teacher salary, so additional revenues for the general fund can only be raised through a change in the by-laws, which would require approval by the representative assembly. To EIA’s knowledge, no one has yet suggested this remedy, so NEA must cover the budgetary shortfalls with the small programmed increase in dues ($2 per member this year) and spending cuts.

The union’s regional leadership conferences will be canceled for 2012-13, and thereafter will be replaced by two annual “summits.” Additionally, the December board of directors meeting will be eliminated, reducing the number of times the board meets annually to four. Conferences for various constituency groups (retirees, ESPs, minorities, et al.) will continue in 2012-13, but will be folded into the summits thereafter.

Up until now, the union has managed to avoid staff layoffs. Fifty-six staffers accepted early retirement this year, bringing the number of national employees down to 439, a reduction of more than 100 from historic peaks. NEA froze executive pay, and eliminated its voluntary matching 401(k) plan (the primary defined benefit pension plan is unaffected).

Borrowing a page from the Oregon Education Association, NEA presented these cuts in staff and revenues in the form of a “reorganization,” complete with a new set of “strategic goals” and “core services.” The key elements of the reorganization are: 1) a greater percentage of NEA’s funds will be passed back down to its state affiliates; and 2) the creation of a Center for Organizing.

There has already been pushback to the proposed measures, with a number of attempts to restore funding to various line-items voted down by the board of directors earlier this month. But the biggest fly in the ointment may be that the budget makes assumptions about the outcome of contract negotiations with NEA’s staff union. The staff contract expires midnight Thursday and there is no telling how that will unfold.

There will be opportunity in the coming weeks to examine what these internal issues will mean for NEA’s external operations in the short term, but it would be an understatement to say that events are not trending in the union’s favor.

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Comments

…where’s the hat that I can put my loose change in?

teejk on May 29, 2012 at 6:31 PM

Public sector unions in general and teacher’s unions in particular can’t disappear fast enough for my liking. Teacher’s unions add no value to the education of children and actually hinder excellence in education.

hopeful on May 29, 2012 at 6:58 PM

Just reading about the new waivers to “No Child Left Behind”…it’s amazing that with all the money we spend on education we have to exempt states from the requirement that all students pass achievement tests by 2014 showing proficiency in the basic building blocks for their future success — math and english! It’s even more amazing that Under No Child Left Behind, each state established its own proficiency tests and determined what constituted passing, but still needs waivers! Luckily for thes States and teachers unions like NEA, pay is not tied to performance and educating students is not the priority. Instead, Education Secretary Duncan said

“States must show they are protecting children in order to get flexibility”

So education is not their primary mission…who’d have thought!

WhyNot on May 29, 2012 at 7:32 PM

Borrowing a page from the Oregon Education Association, NEA presented these cuts in staff and revenues in the form of a “reorganization,” complete with a new set of “strategic goals” and “core services.”

Yea….. reorganize…….. out of existence.

itsspideyman on May 29, 2012 at 8:26 PM

Couldn’t be happening to a nicer bunch of people.
///////////////////////////////

Bitter Clinger on May 29, 2012 at 8:41 PM

the union is reporting a loss of 150,000 members over the past two years, and is projecting a further loss of more than 200,000 members over the next two years.

Are these from cut teacher positions around the country, or is there actually a revolt within the ranks and (I hope) tens of thousands of teachers are breaking away from the NEA?

jwolf on May 29, 2012 at 9:18 PM

……karma…..

t on May 29, 2012 at 9:37 PM

If ever there was a Vampire in America that needed a wooden stake driven through it’s black evil heart, it is the NEA…

SWalker on May 29, 2012 at 9:39 PM

…where’s the hat that I can put my loose change in?

teejk on May 29, 2012 at 6:31 PM

I might have a couple of Loonies to pitch in, but I’m going back to northwest Ontario for another fishing trip next year.

Steve Eggleston on May 29, 2012 at 9:52 PM

Going to be ashamed if they don’t have that money they promised Obama – I doubt they’ll like the view from under the school bus beside their students.

2nd Ammendment Mother on May 29, 2012 at 10:18 PM

If ever there was a Vampire in America that needed a wooden stake driven through it’s black evil heart, it is the NEA…

SWalker on May 29, 2012 at 9:39 PM

Very true, but the NEA is not the only one sucking the blood of Americans. Texas teachers started revolting a long time ago from NEA, and TSTA lost many members. The only NEA members/activists I ever worked with were transplants from the north.

jazzuscounty on May 29, 2012 at 10:43 PM

This is why unions fight the fair share fee lawsuits so strongly. No one would join unless they were forced to.

PattyJ on May 29, 2012 at 10:49 PM

School vouchers for 100% of the students. Problem solved all the way around. And we could probably deliver a better quality of education at half the cost per pupil. Extra voucher $$ for special needs students. Again, problem solved.

karenhasfreedom on May 30, 2012 at 4:12 AM

Good. Bastards have been ruining education for decades.

ProfShadow on May 30, 2012 at 6:59 AM

Doesn’t this provide an object lesson in supply and demand? Teachers don’t want the product/service that the union is offering, so the union has to make budget and human resources decisions, such as streamlining the budget, raising the price of its goods/services, and laying off staff to keep it afloat. So, when they do it, it’s acceptable, but when businesses do it, it’s because of greed? Yeah, right. Econ 101. Sheesh.

College Prof on May 30, 2012 at 8:56 AM