The OEA and other state NEA affiliates facing harsher realities, national leadership says
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Published: 09-Jul-2011

A deeper look at Oklahoma Education Association finances, public records and investigative information reveals more about the teachers’ union’s closely-guarded financial information. The basis for this report comes from several data sources, the National Education Association, as well as the OEA itself.

CapitolbeatOK.com recently reported the union’s chief executive officer, Lela Odom, acknowledged a 707-membership loss in its most recent year. 

In response to a media request, she said in a written statement:

“During the 2009-2010 school year, OEA lost 707 members, largely due to the elimination of about 2,000 teaching positions statewide,” the executive director said. “OEA has 34,886 members and is the largest professional education association in Oklahoma.”

What she declined to provide was a breakdown by member class, which has a tremendous impact on income. It also avoids disclosing active, classroom teachers, its most lucrative members per capita.

There are eight member classifications with great variances in cost.

They are: active certified teachers; full, half, substitute and non-certified teachers; education support personnel such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers; reserve members who are no longer working actively as certified teachers or education support personnel and student members who belong to student university Student OEA chapters at Oklahoma universities. 

Dues descend swiftly below the certified teachers classification (see chart below). Student dues are the lowest, but vary by university chapter.

OEA’s most recent 990 tax return shows $5.9 million in dues income, plus investment and program income (not detailed) for combined total income of $8.2 million. The union elected not to provide any interpretation of the data.

The National Education Association Representative Assembly (R.A.) is held yearly, usually over the July 4 weekend. It includes NEA leaders and leaders of every state affiliate 

There, much financial information is imparted to state leaders. Decisions are made. Rules passed. Positions are established on a variety of issues.

Seasoned, investigative reporter/researcher Mike Antonucci has reported on the union for decades. 

Antonucci’s reports from the R.A. show it was a sobering year for the nation’s largest labor union, which lost thousands of members and millions in revenue this past year, a trend very likely to continue, NEA leadership conceded. 

The news arguably sends a clear signal the union giant is beginning to falter. Whether it continues remains to be seen.

Antonucci reported that NEA-obtained data shows OEA has suffered member losses between two percent and three percent for several consecutive years:  2008-2009 and 2009-2010.

He reported NEA-provided data has shown Oklahoma has registered member losses between 2% and 3% and that it now stands at 23,284. Whether the reports are true is anyone’s guess. The investigator has reported the NEA has changed its member totals and on several occasions without apparent explanation.

Is the OEA membership data accurate and does it reflect certified teachers only, or total state membership among all classifications? Clearly, the OEA won’t be talking.

But the trends are irrefutable. NEA’s Becky Pringle warned at the R.A. that, “We have to assume we haven’t hit bottom yet.”

Antonucci entitled the missive “NEA Convention 2011: A New Reality.”


Note: Martin is a researcher and staff writer for CapitolBeatOK, where McGuigan is editor. 

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