Teachers’ unions are bleeding members. Education Week reports that the National Education Association (NEA) has lost 100,000 members. Now the union plans to “retool” their mission to recoup some of the lost member$hip.
Union officials blame the membership decline on the recession, evil Republicans, evil education reform, and evil technology. But other factors surely plays a role, e.g., shielding bad teachers from discipline or dismissal.
For example, the California Education Association (CEA), the state affiliate of the NEA, killed a bill that would have allowed a school board to suspend an employee for “serious or egregious unprofessional conduct.” In an article published in City Journal, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network Larry Sand describes the problem,
Early this year, Los Angeles police arrested Mark Berndt, a longtime teacher at Miramonte Elementary School, on 23 counts of committing lewd acts on children between the ages of seven and ten. The sickening details of the crimes Berndt is charged with committing horrified the community and the state. More stories about California teachers accused of sexual misconduct with children have now surfaced. The Berndt case casts new light on the tortuous legal process that makes it nearly impossible for schools to rid themselves of even these depraved teachers. Perversely, the case also shows the extent to which teachers’ unions will go to protect their prerogatives.
Legislation proposed by California state senator Alex Padilla, a Democrat and former L.A. city councilman, would have made it easier for school boards to suspend or fire teachers like Mr. Berndt. The CEA claimed that Padilla’s bill was designed to penalize or simply “bash” teachers. Spineless state legislators ran the other way.
Why would an effective and dedicated teacher want to be associated with an organization that spends considerable resources to protect teachers like Mr. Berndt?
Teachers are jumping ship for a number of other reasons. Right-leaning teachers may grow tired of diverting a portion of their salary to an organization that perpetually supports local, state, and Presidential candidates that they do not agree with, e.g., Democrats.
Still others may not be pleased that union officials earn several times more than the average teacher. Fox News recently highlighted the issue with the headline, “Average teacher makes $44G while their top union bosses pull in nearly $500G.” Last year, the Civitas Institute reported that the leadership of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) rake in at least three times more than the average salary of their members. After a while, teachers begin to wonder if union and association leaders use those monthly union withdraws in productive ways.
Finally, some teachers join unions and associations simply to receive liability insurance. States like North Carolina provide liability insurance to teachers free of charge. That is one less reason to join.