- Posted July 4, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Teachers Union Wounded and Bleeding
The largest union of education professionals is wounded and bleeding. Membership in the National Education Association (NEA) has lost 100,000 members just since 2010. Those numbers are growing. Along with it dues disappearing, revenue is getting less as well.
By 2014, union projections show, it could lose a cumulative total of about 308,000 full-time teachers and other workers, a 16% drop from 2010. Lost dues will shrink NEA's budget an estimated $65 million, or 18%.
NEA calls the membership losses "unprecedented" and predicts they may be a sign of things to come. "Things will never go back to the way they were," reads its 2012-14 strategic plan, citing changing teacher demographics, attempts by some states to restrict public employee collective bargaining rights and an "explosion" in online learning that could sideline flesh-and-blood teachers.
"We may be a little smaller, but we won't be weaker — we'll be stronger," NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said. He said teachers "have been energized" by lawmakers' bids in some states to make it harder to join a public-sector union.
The losses hit as thousands of delegates convene this week in Washington, D.C., for NEA's annual meeting. Democratic candidates for the White House traditionally have lined up to court the group and its 2.2 million members. This year, President Obama will skip the event. Vice President Biden is scheduled to address the teachers today.
Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation, a non-partisan think tank, said it's unclear whether Obama skipped the event because he can easily count on NEA's support or because its political influence has waned, in part because of bruising battles over collective bargaining in states such as Wisconsin and Michigan. Either way, he said, proposals that NEA has long fought, such as private-school vouchers, are gaining traction.
"Obviously in Democratic politics, if they have a half-million fewer members at some point and a lot fewer dollars, there's absolutely a point when they're going to matter less than they do today — and that's going to hurt them," said Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, a non-partisan think tank.
Losing that many members is "the kind of shift in the landscape that can force union leaders to shift their stance on issues," Hess said.
From the Cornfield, we all support quality in education and want what is best for both our students and our teachers.