Let's start off with some perspective on the collective bargaining power of the largest teachers union in the country.
The most recent Form 990 filing for the fiscal year ending in June 2022 for Connecticut Education Association shows that the CEA collected $18,706,374 in dues from members across the state. Further, the National Education Association (NEA) took in an astounding $376.4 million in national dues for the fiscal year ending in August 2021.
For the 2022-2023 school year, the CEA reportedly charged $506.98 in state dues per member and the NEA charged an additional $204 in national dues per member. If the number of union members held steady around 43,000, then CEA members are estimated to have contributed dues totaling $21.8 million to the CEA and $8.8 million to the NEA for the 2022-2023 school year.
This doesn't include dues paid to the local unions, which reportedly vary per district (e.g., $153 in one Fairfield County district, $270 in another district), and could bring total union dues to $850 - $980 or more per member.
Americans for Fair Treatment (AFFT) took a look at how the NEA spends its money based on the 2020-2021 fiscal year. It found that the union spent $2 on politics for every $1 it spent on representing its own members. In fact, only 9% of the union’s spending was dedicated to “representational activities” that directly assisted members.
The NEA spent a total of $66 million on political activities and lobbying in 2021. But not all political activities were included in that line item.
A donation for $1 million was made to the liberal super-PAC Future Forward USA Action, which supported Biden’s presidential campaign. The NEA accounted for the donation under “contributions, gifts, and grants” instead of political spending.
Other progressive organizations that benefited from the NEA's generosity included the State Engagement Fund ($15.7M), which is part of the "Democracy Alliance" that funds left-wing candidates and issues; the Strategic Victory Fund ($1.85M), a super PAC that funnels money to Democrat Party candidates and causes; and the Good Land Committee ($786k), which is the fundraising arm of the Democratic National Convention.
Not all union members want to see their dues money funding left-wing political activities, but members often feel pressured to stay in the union so that they don't risk losing pay or benefits. They also fear being viewed as "freeloaders" if they leave the union but are still perceived to benefit from its bargaining power.
However, educators should be aware that the Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that public employees could not be required to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment because it could require them to subsidize political speech with which they do not agree.
A Facebook group called Constitution State Educators has been set up for the sole purpose of teaching educators about how to leave the union. Doing so poses no risk to teachers of losing pay or benefits. In fact, teachers who leave are covered 100% by the same contractual rights and are free to join non-union alternatives that provide greater job protections for a fraction of the cost of union dues.
It's well past time for teachers who believe that politics should be kept out of the classroom to rethink their commitment to a union that doesn't necessarily represent them or their values.
Michael Costanza, the teacher who created Constitution State Educators, has taught in Connecticut for 17 years without ever joining the union. "The sky does not fall," Costanza said, "and I've met many more teachers who have left CEA in the last few years, and not one has regretted it. A lot of them feel it was the union who left them. They just got tired of the union freeloading off their dues to push politics on their students."
There is only one time during the year when members can leave the union, and that time is right around the corner in August.
If you have any questions, you can always join the group on Facebook, or email them at [email protected].