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NEA Committee Proposes $17 Million in Budget Cuts

NEA's budget committee this morning presented a modified 2010-2012 strategic plan and budget for feedback and review that would cut some $17 million from the budget that the Representative Assembly approved last year.

NEA Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle said the modification was necessary due to a "double whammy" of membership losses coupled with projected teacher-salary raises that didn't materialize.

(99 percent of NEA's budget is based on dues. And the dues formula for classroom teachers, for instance, is basically the number of members times the average salary of active full-time-equivalent teachers.)

The union lost 20,000 members last year, expects to lose 10,000 more by the end of this year, and an additional 30,000 in 2012. So, the cuts are based on a projected loss of 60,000 million members in total, a $14 million hit, plus a $3 million increase in the cost of its unified legal-service program, which helps protect teachers' employment.

The modified budget is just a proposal at this point; the entire Representative Assembly will vote on it in a few days.

A few things about this are worth noting. First, Pringle said that last year's losses were the first ever for the association, and that it's pessimistic about the future in part because there is no chance of another federal "edujobs" bill.

"I'm sure I don't need to tell you there will be no education bill saving our members' jobs this year," she said.

Second, although I'm not the first to note this disparity, a loss of 30,000 education jobs is not anywhere close to the 10-times-larger 300,000 figure that NEA was tossing around last year. (To be fair, the Obama administration used the larger figure, too.)

So where does NEA plan to make its cuts? A lot of different places. It's changing its strategic goals (they were school funding, improved salaries and its Priority Schools campaign; now, they are "strong affiliates" and Priority Schools.) It's cutting a lot of administrative expenses, reducing its travel budget, and cutting its publications.

Perhaps most interesting, it also expects to reduce its staff by 20 folks to save $5 million. The union hopes most of that will come from attrition, but it's not a sure thing yet.

Now, on top of all this, the union plans to levy a $10-per-member annual assessment to increase its Ballot Initiative/Legislative Crisis Fund. That was a tough decision but necessary in light of anti-bargaining action in Idaho, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and other states, Pringle said.

She underscored that this increase will not be used to close the projected $17 million shortfall. It will all be sent to states that request the extra assistance.

"We cannot send our significant army to war unarmed," she said.

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