The American Federation of Teachers, with more than 1.6 million members, paints a rosy picture of financial prosperity, with $152 million in assets and a net financial-position improvement of $15 million since 2020. A closer examination, however, reveals an alarming trend: the union increased its membership dues while losing more than 10,000 members since 2020.
No wonder teachers are turning away from the union when only 34% of its spending goes toward acting on behalf of its members. The AFT diverts large sums to political activities, supporting left-wing causes and candidates, taking no account of the diverse political affiliations among its members. Political spending accounted for 17.3% of the AFT’s total outlays in the 2021-22 fiscal year. AFT President Randi Weingarten pulls in roughly $488,000 a year—more than eight times what a teacher makes.
The situation is arguably worse at the even larger National Education Association. It spent $49.2 million on political activities in 2021-22, surpassing the amount spent on membership representation by $3.5 million. Like the AFT, the NEA protected revenue from membership losses by hiking dues. The union’s emphasis on financial investment further highlights its shift away from representing teachers and toward building its own wealth.