From 2005 to 2021 reports filed with the U.S Department of Labor (DOL) show that the spending priorities of the two largest teachers unions – the NEA and the AFT – have changed significantly. The changes relate to the amount of funds allocated to political activities and lobbying.
The reports filed annually with the DOL track detailed financial transactions related to “Representational Activities”, “Political Activities and Lobbying”, “Contributions, Gifts, and Grants” and other administrative categories.
The reports show that the NEA and AFT collected approximately $575 million in dues from 3.6 million members in 2021.
The change in priorities becomes evident when comparing spending related to political activities and representational activities. For example, comparing 2005 to 2021, spending by the NEA and AFT on political activities and lobbying increased by $74 million. During this same 16-year period, spending on representational activities increased $5.3 million. (See chart nearby)
Spending on political activities and lobbying include political consultants, issue advocacy groups, and political action committees (PAC).
For example, based on 2021 filings, the NEA gave $15.8 million to the NEA Advocacy Fund which is listed as a “Political Organization.” In the same year, the AFT gave $1.75 million to the Senate Majority PAC and $1.5 million to the House Majority PAC.
The chart nearby shows the trends in spending on political activities and representational activities for the NEA from 2005 to 2021. The four-year-average is used due to increased spending in presidential years.
The trend line for representational activities (Blue) is flat from 2008 to 2012 and begins a steady decline in 2012 that continues to 2021.
In contrast, spending on political activities (Gold) increases steeply from 2008 to 2012 and continues to increase unevenly through 2021. The chart indicates that the NEA spending on political activities surpassed spending on representational activities in 2020.
In 2021, the NEA spent more union dues on political activities and lobbying than on representational activities. Documents show in 2021 the NEA spent $66 million on “Political Activities and Lobbying” and $32 million on “Representational activities.”
While the overall spending priorities of the two largest teachers unions transitioned to the political process, the specifics of the spending decisions by union officials reveal more alarming trends.
These trends include partisan spending decisions in campaigns that are not reflective of the teacher union membership, union support for progressive groups pushing divisive positions on controversial issues, and the allocations of millions of dollars in teachers dues to fringe groups not related to education.