Delegates to the National Education Association's Representative Assembly knew the news about their union's loss of membership would be bad, but it isn't clear that they knew it would be this bad.
NEA officials said the union has lost more than 100,000 teachers and education support personnel since 2010, and it projects that it will lose even more in the future. By the end of its 2013-14 budget, NEA expects it will have lost 308,000 members and experienced a decline in revenue projected at some $65 million in all since 2010. (The figures are expressed in full-time equivalents, which means that the actual number of people affected is probably higher.)
There was no sugarcoating these ghastly figures at today's hearing on the NEA's strategic plan and budget.
"As I've said to many of you, it is a trifecta that we could not have imagined," NEA Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle said in opening remarks. "We're living with a recession that just won't end, political attacks that have turned brutal, and societal changes that are impacting us—from stupid education 'reform' to an explosion of technology—all coming together to impact us in ways that we had never anticipated."
The union anticipates the loss of 140,000 certified members and support personnel in 2012-13 next year alone. That amounts to a hole of $27 million.
AP reports on the group's annual convention, which attracted 9,000 attendees to Washington, DC.
For the Republican teachers in attendance, the digs at their political views were impossible to overlook.
"What I don't like is the harassment going on for people to be an 'EFO' — an educator for Obama," said Maureen van Wagner, a special education teacher from Anchorage, Alaska.
In interviews with The Associated Press, roughly a dozen teachers who identified themselves as Republicans said they felt pressure from union leaders and the rank-and-file to support Obama's re-election — and felt marginalized when they wouldn't. Some interviewed said they were so worried about retribution from their colleagues that they wouldn't provide their names for publication.
But what did take Republican teachers off guard was the criticism they received for expressing support for Mitt Romney.
A Republican teacher speaking at the convention was booed for doing just that. The incident prompted NEA President Dennis Van Roekel to intervene, saying that everyone had the right to speak. And when the union invited delegates to the Democratic National Convention in September to a special meeting, no such invitations went out to delegates to the GOP convention until a Republican teacher complained to Van Roekel — an error the union said resulted from a missed newsletter deadline