TEACHERS UNION SPENDING IN PENNSYLVANIA, 2018-19
1. The big picture
Based on the PSEA’s own financial reporting, a bare 19 percent of the union’s spending went to the “representational activities” most directly related to labor representation, such as collective bargaining negotiations, handling grievances, and arbitration proceedings. About 72 percent of the PSEA’s overall spending simply went to running the union: salaries; union employee health and retirement benefits; general overhead (including expenses such as building security guards); multiple union leadership conferences; and purchase of investments and fixed assets (the last includes land, buildings, and cars).
2. Dues money pays for politics
Teachers should know that the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision in 2018 simply means that non-union educators no longer have to pay any fees to their workplace union as a condition of employment. However, for teachers who remain PSEA members, Janus changes nothing about how union dues are spent: they can still be used for political purposes.
In 2018-19, the PSEA spent over $3.9 million of your dues on “political activities and lobbying.” That’s an increase of $1 million from the previous year. You may not have known this, but your member dues can be used for a variety of “soft” political activities, such as get-out-the-vote drives, election mailers, lobbying of legislators, and public marketing campaigns. These must be itemized and reported annually to the U.S. Department of Labor on an “LM-2” financial report. (We’ve provided the latest one, released in late November 2019, below).
So where did some of your PSEA dues go on politics? Recently, the PSEA spent:
- $1.7 million on union officer and employee compensation for their political and lobbying activities in 2018-19;
- $733,395 for the internal PSEA account “Fund for Student Success,” which was approved by the union in July 2018. The Fund is a 527 independent expenditure committee, which is a political organization able to raise unlimited funds to influence “an issue, policy, appointment or election, be it federal, state or local,” according to OpenSecrets.org. In just one year, PSEA devoted almost $500,000 more to the Fund for Student Success than it did in 2018.
- Over $650,000 in political mailings and advocacy materials (including items such as social media marketing on Facebook and robocalls) to members in 2018-19;
- $50,000 in 2018-19 to PR consulting firm Shelly Lyons, billed as a contribution to the progressive CLEAR Coalition; and
- $55,000 to Wolf Inaugural 2019, the privately funded organization responsible for bankrolling Gov. Tom Wolf’s inauguration celebration.
All told, the PSEA has spent almost $33 million since 2010 of teachers’ dues money on “political activities and lobbying.” Most school districts collect this political money directly from educators’ paychecks via payroll, at taxpayer expense.
3. Who is getting your dues money?
NEA member dues, now $196 a year for full-time teachers—and which every PSEA member must pay—supported a variety of political and ideological advocacy groups and causes around the country. Contributions to political organizations totaled at least $29 million in 2018-19, according to the NEA’s financial report, but millions more to such groups were also logged as “contributions, gifts and grants.”
Here are just a few big-ticket examples of the progressive and partisan Democratic causes your NEA dues funded from September 1, 2018 through August 31, 2019:
- A number of ballot measures leading up to the 2018 mid-term elections (out of each NEA member’s yearly dues, $20 goes to the union’s Ballot Measure/Legislative Crisis Fund, which was created in 2000).
- $1 million to the Greater Wisconsin Committee, a “progressive issue advocacy organization” founded in 2004 that specifically attacks Republican candidates for office through TV ads and other efforts, and was the highest spender during 2018 state elections.
- $500,000 to Clean Missouri in support of a constitutional amendment which passed and will change how electoral districts are drawn and limit campaign contributions, among other issues. This was in addition to $500,000 logged on the NEA’s 2018 report.
- $500,000 to Stop Deceptive Amendments, a North Carolina group that worked against all six amendments to the state constitution appearing on the November ballot. The measures the group opposed included one requiring ID to vote and a cap on income tax, both of which passed.
- $385,000 to Great Schools Now, an Arizona effort to increase public school funding through state income tax increases. This followed $1.4 million in earlier 2018 NEA donations to the allied Invest in Education group. Ultimately, Proposition 207 never appeared on the November ballot because the Arizona Supreme Court removed it.
- $250,000 to Yes on Quality Schools, a California organization that supported a successful measure for the state to issue $9 billion in government bonds (that is, new debt) to upgrade public school infrastructure.
- $250,000 to the Maryland Promise Committee in support of a constitutional amendment that passed and will dedicate revenue from video lotteries as supplementary education funding. This is in addition to another $250,000 donated earlier in 2018.
- $250,000 to Our Oregon, which advocates for raising business taxes. In 2018, the organization was one of several Big Labor-backed groups that helped to defeat Measure 104, which would have made it harder for Oregon to raise money for government through back-door fees and tax exemptions.
- $250,000 to Preserve Our Hawaii, a coalition of unions, the ACLU, the Hawaii Democratic Party, and other groups that helped to defeat a ballot measure to hold a new state constitutional convention.
- $100,000 to Floridians for Tax Fairness, a group which opposed two ballot measures, one that failed and would have offered more property tax exemptions, and the second that passed and now requires a two-thirds majority in the state legislature for new taxes.
- $100,000 to Oregonians United Against Profiling, a group that helped to successfully defeat Measure 105. The initiative would have repealed Oregon’s 31-year status as a sanctuary state for undocumented immigrants.
- Apart from ballot measures, the NEA portion of your dues also went to these political and ideological organizations in 2018-19 (among others):
- Over $1 million to For Our Future Action Fund
- Over $543,000 to America Votes
- $431,500 to Preserve, Protect and Defend, a super-PAC listed with the Federal Election Commission but offering little other information.
- $400,000 to ColorofChange.org
- $220,000 to Democracy Alliance
- $150,000 to the Center for Popular Democracy Action Fund
- $100,000 to America Works USA, an “issue advocacy” group with the same address as the Democratic Governors Association
- $100,000 to Emerging American Majorities
- $50,000 to the Center for American Progress
4. Your dues rise every year
In 2018-19, the PSEA collected $63.7 million in dues from school employees. The union’s 2019 financial report, which covers September 1, 2018 through August 31, 2019, is the first year since the Janus ruling. It therefore reflects only member dues collected, not fair share fees. (In June 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that fair share fees were illegal).
However, PSEA revenue from dues fell only $238,000 in the last year, despite losing nearly all its fee payers—6,630. Through a combination of dues increases and other revenue sources, and despite unions fretting over the course correction Janus offered, the PSEA is maintaining its coffers.
Since 2011, teachers’ dues, counting what they pay to the state and national unions, have increased 24 percent, and is now $738 for the 2019-20 school year. That figure does not count the varying dues several district locals may charge, which is often a token amount such as $30 a year.
In 2017-18, the PSEA collected nearly $64 million in dues and “agency fees” (fees charged to non-union workers) from school employees. Since 2010, teachers’ dues, counting what they pay to the state and national unions, have increased 22 percent, and is $738 for the 2019-20 school year. That figure does not count the varying dues several district locals may charge, which is often a token amount such as $30 a year.
 Form LM-2 Labor Organization Annual Report, Pennsylvania State Education Association, U.S. Department of Labor File Number 512-989, Years 2018-2019.
 Form LM-2 Labor Organization Annual Report, National Education Association, U.S. Department of Labor File Number 000-342, Years 2018-2019.
 This was calculated using PSEA membership application forms, and PSEA and NEA LM-2 reports by year, which state annual dues.
This analysis for 2017-18 is available here.