Independent Journalist

Mike Brake is a journalist and writer who recently authored a centennial history of Putnam City Schools. A former reporter at The Oklahoman (his coverage of the moon landing earned a front-page byline on July 21, 1969), he served as chief writer for Gov. Frank Keating and for Lt. Gov. and Congresswoman Mary Fallin. He has also served as an adjunct instructor at OSU-OKC.

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The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA), has long claimed to speak for state teachers. But it now represents considerably fewer than half of them, according to new filings with the Internal Revenue Service as reported by labor analyst Mike Antonucci.

OEA membership, already down 44 percent from 1993 to 2017, fell another 2 percent in 2018, to 18,725. According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE), Oklahoma has 43,056 classroom teachers.

The latest decline was also reflected in a 10.7 percent reduction in OEA revenues, the report said.

“It is difficult to draw conclusions about the effects of the [2018] #RedForEd protests on union income,” Antonucci says. “The Arizona Education Association certainly benefited: Its membership increased almost 9 percent and its revenues grew by 24 percent. On the other hand, the Oklahoma Education Association saw membership drop by 2 percent, and its revenues fell by more than 10 percent.”

Antonucci says the financial health of each state affiliate “can also be judged by its reliance on NEA subsidies. Nine state affiliates (and probably New Mexico) received more than 20 percent of their income from NEA national headquarters.” The OEA received 18.7 percent of its income from the NEA. 

There have been a number of suggested reasons proposed for the steady decline, one of which is the extreme leftward tilt of the OEA’s national organization, the NEA. The NEA’s position papers on various issues now read more like a Bernie Sanders campaign brochure, with strong pro-abortion positions, support for slavery reparations, and support for LGBTQ people choosing their own pronouns.

These sorts of resolutions were passed at the most recent NEA national meeting, but a resolution supporting a quality education and increased student learning was soundly defeated. 

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