By Brandon Dutcher
In a recent a press release issued by the Democratic caucus of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, Mid-Del schoolteacher Alicia Blair was quoted as saying: “I owe $30,000 in student loans and take home less than $2,000 a month. My check would be about $2,200, but after taxes and retirement are withheld, $200 is taken out for my daughter’s insurance and $56 goes to my NEA dues.”
In other words, this teacher is paying several hundred dollars annually in union dues. The question is: Why?
Perhaps like most teachers she wants the liability insurance, but she likely doesn’t realize how inexpensive it really is. (When I checked 15 years ago, the policy cost the union no more than $4.29 per teacher. It's doubtless gone up since then, but it's still a tiny fraction of union dues.)
Or, perhaps she's expecting the OEA—whose president’s total annual compensation is $153,408—to do what unions do: secure pay raises for their members. But as OCPA president Jonathan Small recently reminded News9, the union isn’t exactly excelling on that front:
The OEA’s inability to secure pay hikes from the legislature could help to explain why the organization has lost 20 percent of its active members over the last five years. But I’m not sure this ineffectiveness should come as a surprise. After all, this is the organization that sued the legislature in 2006. It’s the organization that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2010 telling Oklahomans how greedy and deceptive legislators are. (You may recall the SQ 744 television commercials which said "some really greedy people"—the "highest-paid in the region," no less—are desperately trying to "protect their perks and privileges." But not to worry, even though the "politicians are trying to deceive you," the good guys in the white hats were there to “take on the Oklahoma legislature.”)
Hostility is not always the best fundraising posture.
Unionized teachers wanting to boost their pay by hundreds of dollars annually can obviously take one easy step to do so right now. Beyond that, they should demand to know why an education system with $8.7 billion in total revenue last year, the most in state history, can’t seem to raise teacher pay.