The Education Intelligence Agency has a series of great posts about the way the National Education Association spends the almost $300 million dollars it collects from members in the form of dues. Members are practically compelled to pay for membership in the organization, because most of the money is consumed in so-called ‘representation’ fees—meaning is it financially impractical to not be a member.
The report is enlightening. Roughly 1/3 of the money is spent on salaries and benefits for NEA employees, executives, and retirees. Bob Chase, who completed his term in 2002, still received over $60,000 in 2004–05 as a part of a deferred compensation package. Of interest to me was that Montana has a state executive named David Smith who makes $105,059 —and in my 6th year of teaching in the state, I have no idea who he is.
Of more interest were these items about how the union spends other parts of its budget. The NEA is active philanthropic organization, giving $5,000 to Amnesty International, $5,000 to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Media Awards, $15,000 to the Human Rights Campaign, $5,000 to the Wellstone Memorial Fund, to name a few. I have no problem with these donations in political terms—but it doesn’t seem terribly appropriate for my union to take my money and give it to political causes—without my approval, or even input. I’m sure this is a logical explanation why $6,000 went to the Council on Foreign Relations, as well, not to mention $51,200 to People for the American Way and $25,000 for the DLC.
I don’t even ever want to know what these expenditures were for:
- NB Yacht Charters: $11,797
- Morris Costumes: $5,421. A second payment of $54,225 appears in the “union administration” category.
- Joe Ragan’s Coffee, Ltd.: $25,962
Initial Tropical Plants, Inc.: $42,472
Education Wonk adds some great insight on the need for democratic reform in the NEA. More on that later.