How Many State Affiliates Can NEA Bail Out?
posted at 5:18 pm on June 18, 2012 by Mike Antonucci
When the National Education Association Representative Assembly opens in two weeks, there will be much grumbling from the delegates about the program and staff cuts associated with the union’s reorganization. But the complaints will be tempered by the knowledge that a greater percentage of the national union’s revenues will filter back down to the state affiliates, where they are badly needed.
Even though NEA’s budget is being cut, total aid for state and local projects will increase by $5.6 million next year, taking some of the edge off the corresponding budget cuts in the union’s affiliates. The larger questions are whether this sum is enough to keep faltering ships afloat, and whether NEA itself can withstand the increased demands for bailouts.
For many years, substantial membership growth in strong union states such as New Jersey and Illinois was able to compensate for perennial losses in Southern and other right-to-work states. The relative stability of the high performers enabled NEA to bail out both Indiana and South Carolina without a major blow to its bottom line. NEA now faces increased demand from weak affiliates without the surplus revenue from strong affiliates. A look at two state affiliates, one with moderate and the other with severe budget problems, will help illustrate.
Missouri NEA saw its active membership drop to 27,837 members in the 2010-11 school year, with more, unspecified losses this year. But a $10 dues increase was able to mitigate the financial effect. MNEA took in almost $7.8 million in state dues in 2010-11, and budgeted for under $7.7 million this year, and about $7.4 million next year.
That isn’t too bad, but before the recession hit, NEA had hopes of big things in Missouri, due to a 2007 state supreme court ruling that allowed public school teachers to bargain collectively. The independent Missouri State Teachers Association is still the largest teacher organization in the state.
Things are much worse for the Arizona Education Association, which has seen its active membership drop to just over 18,300 members this year – in a state with more than 50,000 teachers. Its state dues income fell from $7.5 million to $5.4 million in a single year, and the union is budgeting for less than $5.3 million in dues next year. NEA aid peaked at almost $1.3 million in 2010-11, but AEA is planning on less than half that amount for next year.
There are other NEA affiliates with less margin for error – Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and now, Wisconsin, spring to mind. If current trends continue, it makes one wonder whether more mergers will be proposed, either with AFT affiliates or across state lines with other NEA affiliates to form regional unions. Now that would be a reorganization.