Unexpectedly Intriguing!
May 19, 2011
Washington D.C. Teacher - Source: Library of Congress

How much money do teachers unions really need to collect from their members to represent their interests with their employers?

One way we can find out is to see how much money the various branches of the national and state teachers unions have left over after paying the people who work directly for the unions themselves, whose jobs are to represent the member teachers at their school districts and perhaps also to represent their interests at the state and national level as well.

With that in mind, any money collected from mandatory union dues that sharply exceeds the costs of compensating the union's own employees or the costs of operating the union itself, such as rent for office or meeting space for the union's employees, would have to be considered to be excessive. If excessively excessive, the amount of dues above that basic level would constitute gouging on the part of the union bosses, who set the level of their represented teachers' dues, as they would be collecting far more in dues than what is genuinely necessary to represent their members' at their employers.

The dynamic table we're presenting below takes data compiled by the Education Intelligence Agency from the National Education Association (NEA) and its state affiliates. You can sort the data presented in the table according to the category given in each of the column headings, either from low to high or from high to low by clicking the column heading a second time. If you're accessing this table from one of our RSS feeds, you'll need to click through to our site to take full advantage of the dynamic table's sorting capability.

U.S. Education Union Revenues and Employee Compensation by State, 2008-09
State or Entity Union Affiliate Total Revenue [1] Revenue from Member Dues Employee Compensation [2] Surplus Revenue [3] Surplus Revenue [Percent of Member Dues] Political Party in Control [4]
United States National Education Association (National HQ) 366,933,105 352,393,169 118,553,883 233,839,286 63.7% Democratic
Alabama Alabama Education Association 20,624,711 15,464,423 10,296,776 5,167,647 25.1% Democratic
Alaska NEA Alaska 6,563,919 5,555,513 3,717,042 1,838,471 28.0% Split
Arizona Arizona Education Association 10,153,905 8,316,766 6,368,492 1,948,274 19.2% Republican
Arkansas Arkansas Education Association 4,455,217 3,952,091 2,938,202 1,013,889 22.8% Democratic
California California Teachers Association 176,868,803 178,923,363 83,373,700 95,549,663 54.0% Democratic
Colorado Colorado Education Association 11,547,934 10,479,538 6,641,638 3,837,900 33.2% Democratic
Connecticut Connecticut Education Association 18,096,257 17,273,742 14,961,202 2,312,540 12.8% Democratic
Delaware Delaware State Education Association 4,806,832 3,934,655 2,763,703 1,170,952 24.4% Democratic
Florida Florida Education Association 30,562,586 25,235,581 12,384,364 12,851,217 42.0% Republican
Georgia Georgia Association of Educators 9,573,040 7,660,449 6,091,621 1,568,828 16.4% Republican
Hawaii Hawaii Sate Teachers Association 7,684,800 6,882,900 4,247,781 2,635,119 34.3% Democratic
Hawaii University of Hawaii Professional Assembly 3,345,352 3,173,552 960,866 2,212,686 66.1% Democratic
Idaho Idaho Education Association 5,206,116 4,177,234 3,262,721 914,513 17.6% Republican
Illinois Illinois Education Association 48,327,911 42,345,994 50,016,259 -7,670,265 -15.9% Democratic
Indiana Indiana State Teachers Association 21,644,245 19,634,746 20,485,393 -850,647 -3.9% Split
Iowa Iowa State Education Association 14,317,046 12,608,093 9,435,891 3,172,202 22.2% Democratic
Kansas Kansas NEA 8,697,391 7,653,602 6,351,306 1,302,296 15.0% Republican
Kentucky Kentucky Education Association 11,393,174 9,740,133 6,668,526 3,071,607 27.0% Split
Louisiana Louisiana Association o fEducators 3,923,728 2,921,692 2,323,359 598,333 15.2% Democratic
Maine Maine Education Association 7,752,189 5,836,496 5,410,294 426,202 5.5% Democratic
Maryland Maryland State Education Association 18,678,952 16,440,085 11,755,639 4,684,446 25.1% Democratic
Massachusetts Massachusetts Teachers Association 40,035,184 36,164,880 21,125,727 15,039,153 37.6% Democratic
Michigan Michigan Education Association 78,138,236 65,771,358 55,389,591 10,381,767 13.3% Split
Minnesota Education Minnesota 29,813,071 28,378,324 18,484,680 9,893,644 33.2% Democratic
Mississippi Mississippi Association of Educators 2,225,990 1,274,502 1,372,860 -98,358 -4.4% Democratic
Missouri Missouri NEA 9,521,574 7,332,243 5,938,215 1,394,028 14.6% Republican
Montana MEA-MFT 6,169,856 5,000,859 3,668,112 1,332,747 21.6% Split
Nebraska Nebraska State Education Association 8,697,451 7,255,736 4,841,960 2,413,776 27.8% Republican
Nevada Nevada State Education Association 9,455,151 7,661,368 3,729,526 3,931,842 41.6% Democratic
New Hampshire NEA New Hampshire 6,391,083 5,297,637 4,314,136 983,501 15.4% Democratic
New Jersey New Jersey Education Association 112,152,523 104,075,758 45,357,538 58,718,220 52.4% Democratic
New Mexico NEA New Mexico 3,155,126 2,033,113 1,850,301 182,812 5.8% Democratic
New York New York State United Teachers 125,156,340 109,122,676 77,329,394 31,793,282 25.4% Democratic
North Carolina North Carolina Association of Educators 11,161,779 9,399,136 7,629,623 1,769,513 15.9% Democratic
North Dakota North Dakota Education Association 2,767,791 1,925,401 1,539,293 386,108 14.0% Republican
Ohio Ohio Education Association 59,252,311 56,664,971 26,642,028 30,022,943 50.7% Split
Oklahoma Oklahoma Education Association 8,111,500 6,164,071 4,005,152 2,158,919 26.6% Republican
Oregon Oregon Education Association 22,016,164 18,689,618 23,264,534 -4,574,916 -20.8% Democratic
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania State Education Association 64,727,092 54,856,881 36,075,940 18,780,941 29.0% Split
Rhode Island NEA Rhode IslanDemocratic 4,064,571 3,176,651 3,052,203 124,448 3.1% Democratic
South Carolina South Carolina Education Association 2,488,068 1,634,617 1,289,881 344,736 13.9% Republican
South Dakota South Dakota Education Association 2,460,289 1,674,654 1,348,401 326,253 13.3% Republican
Tennessee Tennessee Education Association 12,074,558 11,286,837 8,503,148 2,783,689 23.1% Republican
Texas Texas State Teachers Association 11,230,446 8,166,469 6,276,107 1,890,362 16.8% Republican
Utah Utah Education Association 3,400,957 2,746,270 2,046,444 699,826 20.6% Republican
Utah Utah School Employees Association 1,815,927 1,317,564 906,304 411,260 22.6% Republican
Vermont Vermont NEA 4,127,296 3,117,944 2,864,875 253,069 6.1% Democratic
Virginia Virginia Education Association 15,211,783 12,398,133 10,908,364 1,489,769 9.8% Split
Washington Washington Education Association 32,773,708 27,445,668 32,878,313 -5,432,645 -16.6% Democratic
West Virginia West Virginia Education Association 3,250,276 2,640,051 1,794,604 845,447 26.0% Democratic
Wisconsin Wisconsin Education Association Council 25,480,973 23,458,810 14,382,812 9,075,998 35.6% Democratic
Wyoming Wyoming Education Association 3,370,689 2,440,382 1,581,344 859,038 25.5% Republican
Military Federal Education Association (DoD Schools) 2,411,815 2,119,056 1,042,094 1,076,962 44.7% N/A

Observations

The key data in the table above is found in the Surplus Revenue [Percent of Member Dues] column. Here, the mean and median "surplus" percentage was 22.1% and 22.4% respectively.

Using these mean and median figures as a baseline value, we identify any union affiliate with a surplus percentage of member dues greater than 25% of the total member dues collected as potentially having set their member dues in excess of that required to legitimately represent the interests of teachers at their employers. We've shaded the rows of the table where the union affiliate's surplus dues exceed this level.

We also note several union affiliates that appear to have been substantially mismanaged in 2008-09, in that their expenditures for compensating their direct employees exceed the revenue collected by dues imposed upon their union's member teachers. The states that fall in this category include Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Oregon and Washington. The rows for these states have been shaded red in the table above.

But to answer the question we asked at the outset, some teachers are indeed being gouged by their union's bosses - the ones whose state legislatures were controlled by the Democratic party in 2008-09 and whose union bosses are sending the member teachers' money. The amount of the gouging would be approximately the amount in excess of 25% of each education union affiliate's total revenue from their members' dues.

We see that at the national level, where surplus member dues exceed 63% of the total member dues collected. Using our 25% threshold as the cap for "legitimate" union representation expenses, this suggests that the portion of teachers union dues that go to the national affiliate of the NEA could be reduced by 40% without impacting the ability of the teachers to have their interests effectively represented at this level.

The states whose education unions are most gouging their teachers members include Hawaii (with surplus member dues of 66% and 34% for the state's two NEA affiliates), California (54%), New Jersey (52.1%), Ohio (50.7%), Florida (42.0%), Nevada (41.6%), Massachusetts (37.6%) and Wisconsin (35.6%). At a minimum, teachers' union dues could be reduced by anywhere from 10% to 25% in these states without impacting the union affiliates ability to just represent the teachers at their employers.

Surplus Revenue from Teachers Union Member Dues by Political Party Controlling State Legislature in 2008-09

Finally, we note a significant divergence between states with legislatures controlled by members of the Democratic party and those states whose legislatures are either controlled by the Republicans or are split between the two major U.S. political parties.

Here, after adding up the amount of surplus revenue remaining after the union affiliates employees compensation has been subtracted from the total member dues collected, we find that states with Democratic legislatures account for $237,616,324 of the total surplus dues collected, or 70.7% of the $335,937,045 of the total surplus member dues collected in 2008-09 for the NEA's state affiliates.

By contrast, union affiliates in states with divided legislatures account for $66,067,598, or 19.7% of the total surplus collected, while union affiliates in states with legislatures controlled by the Republican party have surplus member dues collections of $32,253,123, or 9.6% of the total surplus collected among all states.

We should note that these figures might be even more disproportionately weighted toward states whose legislatures were controlled by the Democratic Party, if not for the five states where the teachers union affiliates operated in the red.

There are some different ways to interpret what this divergence means. First, it could indicate that teachers in states with legislatures with at least one division of the state legislature controlled by the Republican party are happier with that situation, as it indicates that the teachers aren't massing funds to support a prolonged strike in those states. That would also mean that teachers in states with Democratic-party controlled legislatures are less happy with that situation, and that they were preparing to support massive walkouts in 2008-09.

Yes, we laughed at that idea too! More likely, what's going on is that the teachers unions in states with Democratic party-controlled legislatures have been effectively captured by Democratic party members, who are using the surplus member dues to fund their party's political candidates at all levels in those states.

But we'd love to see the reaction of the state union bosses with high levels of dues gouging if anyone ever asks them if the reason why union dues would seem to be so much lower in the so-called Republican-controlled states is because Republicans are better at keeping unionized teachers happy!

Elsewhere on the Web

Marginal Revolution's Alex Tabarrok highlights some interesting quotes by former teacher's union boss Albert Shanker in pointing to an article by Joel Klein in The Atlantic on the failure of American schools.

Previously on Political Calculations

Notes for the Table

[1] Total Revenue combines member dues with investment gains or losses.

[2] Compensation includes the cost of wages, payroll taxes, pension contributions and other benefits paid on behalf of individual employees. Travel and similar tax-deductible expenses are not included. We should also note that the Education Intelligence Agency indicates that some union affiliates (e.g. Michigan) would appear to have included retirees and/or others in their employee compensation totals.

[3] Surplus Revenue is calculated by subtracting Employee Compensation expenses from Revenue from Member Dues.

[4] The political party in control refers to the political party with majorities in the state or national legislature. This information was obtained from Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball web site.

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