Analysis: The NEA Budget Is A Lesson In Reading Between The Lines

Analysis: The NEA Budget Is a Lesson in Reading Between the Lines

Mike Antonucci’s Union Report is typically released on Wednesdays. You can find the complete archive of the report online.

The National Education Association (NEA) is preparing to hold its annual representative assembly virtually, starting from June 30. This assembly brings together thousands of union representatives from NEA state and local affiliates to establish the policies for the national organization.

Last year, the NEA faced significant limitations in terms of its agenda. However, this year, the union aims to cover a wide range of business matters over a four-day period. As always, the strategic plan and budget of the NEA will be the final item that the delegates vote on.

The proposed budget outlines the spending priorities for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year, with an expected revenue of approximately $371 million for the national union. However, the provided details from the NEA may not always be highly informative.

For instance, Secretary-Treasurer Noel Candelaria delivered a brief presentation to delegates regarding the union’s projected usage of the additional $13 million in dues for the next year. One of the slides in his presentation displayed that 23 percent of the new revenue would be used to support professional excellence, while 22 percent would be allocated towards advancing racial justice in education.

NEA tends to describe its budgeting in terms of its programs. However, a closer examination of the budget’s figures reveals a clearer understanding of where the funds will be directed.

The union plans to allocate $5 million of the additional revenue, along with some savings from budget cuts, to salaries and fringe benefits, resulting in a total of $114.4 million for the 600-employee staff. Each of the three executive officers will receive a 3.1 percent salary increase. This raises the president’s base salary to $320,783, while the vice president and secretary-treasurer will have salaries of $281,997. The executive officers will also receive a combined total of $588,562 in allowances and benefits, a portion of which is taxable income.

The NEA budget will include an additional $2.8 million for technology and equipment. Another $6.1 million will be designated for "outside services," which encompasses fees related to professional legal, audit, and tax services, consulting services, building maintenance, educators’ employment liability insurance premiums, membership forms and cards, promotional materials, and advertising.

The projected membership numbers used in creating the budget do not always align with reality. Last year, the NEA anticipated a decrease in active members, projecting a figure of 1,875,000 for the 2020-21 school year, compared to the prior year’s 2 million active members. However, these projected losses did not materialize, as teachers did not leave the profession in large numbers during the pandemic. This year, the union is budgeting for 1,920,000 active members. With the additional federal K-12 spending of $122 billion from the American Rescue Plan, it is likely that more school employees will be hired, bolstering the NEA’s membership.

NEA is already planning to recruit new members, with an allocated budget of nearly $7 million focused on recruiting and engaging teachers to enhance their association with the union. Historically, the NEA has encountered challenges in engaging younger teachers in its activities.

Given the upcoming midterm elections in 2022, the NEA acknowledges the importance of political activity in its budget. The union intends to spend approximately $33 million to support the election of candidates who align with their goals and to influence the education funding, taxes, and revenues debate in various states.

In addition to the budget, the NEA has prioritized a plan to "reimagine" student assessments. An appointed task force has been tasked with developing this new vision. NEA Vice President Princess Moss, who co-chairs the task force, highlighted the belief that standardized tests do not fully measure student learning and are rooted in institutional racism.

More updates on the NEA’s assembly will be provided in the upcoming weeks.

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  • joshwright

    Josh Wright is a 34-year-old educational blogger and school teacher who has been working in the field for over a decade. He has written extensively on a variety of educational topics, and is passionate about helping others achieve their educational goals.

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