Monday, November 05, 2012

Mike Antonucci on NEA Membership Declines, Los Angeles Charters

1)  NEA Membership Declines in All Categories. The National Education Association will spend the next 24 hours deeply immersed in the Presidential campaign, as well as hundreds of Congressional, statehouse and ballot initiative races across the country. But no one is predicting a wholesale change in the political balance of power, which is what it will take for the union to reverse the largest and most precipitous membership losses in its history.

I have reported NEA membership numbers many times over the past 15 years, but this is the first time to my knowledge that the union has experienced losses in all categories: active professional, education support, higher education, students and retirees. Here's a reminder of how NEA has fared during the Obama years:

2008-09 = 2,905,741 active members (3,234,639 total members)
2009-10 = 2,866,063 active (3,204,185 total)
2010-11 = 2,807,332 active (3,166,761 total)
2011-12 = 2,726,045 active (3,085,999 total)

The latest figures show active members (meaning members currently working in the public school system) at about 2,711,000. Total membership, which includes students and retirees, comes in at around 3,067,000. If current trends continue, NEA will fall below 3 million members in less than a year.

NEA has already budgeted for a loss of more than 140,000 members this year. Nevertheless, the union is warning its activists that additional cuts may become necessary.

The union is making plans to address its recruiting problems, but which ones will be implemented and how will depend a great deal on tomorrow's election results. The big campaign issue in education isn't Race to the Top or Common Core. Just as with the broader economy, it's jobs. NEA needs those members back. It's looking to raise revenues, and for politicians committed to using those revenues to hire education employees. All other issues are secondary.


4)  Quote of the Week. "A few moments ago, I spoke about how the district has lost about 21 percent of its K-12 enrollment in the last eight years and about how that, as much as budget shortfalls, is driving the annual RIF process. As you may have guessed, the largest portion of that enrollment loss has been into non-unionized charter schools. As a former UTLA vice president memorably stated: 'Unorganized labor anywhere is a threat to organized labor everywhere.' Moving our jobs out of LAUSD and into non-union charters is the educational equivalent of shipping factory jobs overseas.

"Charter teachers are not our enemies. They are simply exploited workers: credentialed professionals who can be fired on the spot if they don't follow orders. They are teachers. They want to be able to advocate for their students without fearing retribution from the boss. Most of them know that they would be better off with union representation.

"We've already organized a lot of them. UTLA currently represents about 1,000 teachers in independent charter schools. We already represent more charter teachers than any other union in the country. Charter school teachers are not our enemy. Non-unionized charter schools are. And the sooner we unionize those workplaces, the sooner we will eliminate the economic incentive to ship our jobs out of the district." - United Teachers Los Angeles president Warren Fletcher. (September 22 speech)

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