James V. Shuls
Why do teachers join a union or a teachers' association? When I was working on my bachelor’s degree in education, I recall several professors encouraging me to join because of the protection offered in the event of a lawsuit. The same thing happened after I accepted my first job. At that point, other teachers encouraged me to join. It seems many teachers, like me, join a union out of fear that there is an imminent danger of being sued. What these teachers may not realize is their money is not simply purchasing lawsuit insurance; they are supporting a highly active political organization.

Earlier this month, the Education Intelligence Agency released the 2012-13 budget for the Missouri National Education Association (MNEA). The organization expects to raise more than $7.4 million from dues that teachers pay.

Personnel costs consumer the bulk of MNEA’s budget, 66 percent. The executive director’s salary alone is $165,000 and benefits are $144,000.

MNEA also collects $180 in dues from members for the national NEA; nearly $5 million in total was collected from Missouri teachers. The NEA donates this money to a number of organizations. You can peruse a complete list of the organizations the NEA supported in 2010-11 according to their financial disclosure report here.

MNEA members may want to know their dues are going to support many liberal and progressive causes, including $125,000 to Health Care for America Now! a national coalition that works to “promote, defend, implement and improve the Affordable Care Act."

Whatever the reason for joining, it is not likely the average member knows where his or her membership dues are going or the types of organizations they are supporting. There are certainly better ways of getting liability coverage than doling out money to finance causes you may not support.

About the Author

James Shuls
James Shuls
Distinguished Fellow of Education Policy

James V. Shuls is an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and Distinguished Fellow in Education Policy at the Show-Me Institute.