Union Dues Pay for PSEA Politics (Again)

NOVEMBER 26, 2013 | by PRIYA ABRAHAM

Last week we highlighted a number of election-related ads the Pennsylvania State Education Association paid for using its members' dues money—without their permission or knowledge. The state's largest teachers union also funnels money to a number of political issue campaigns, again spending educator dues to advocate for issue positions their own members may disagree with, but pay for anyway.

Here are a few examples from the PSEA's magazine, Voice:

Funding 'cuts': The PSEA blames Gov. Tom Corbett for $1 billion in education cuts, and encourages educators to do the same. One 2012 four-page solicitation to donate to the union's political action committee, PACE, shows a cartoon depicting the governor throwing fuel on a funding crisis fire. Another campaign highlighting funding cuts encourages educators to go "all in" for public education by donating to PACE and electing the right candidates.

The "cuts," however, are really the loss of federal stimulus dollars which flowed into the state over two years starting in 2009. Then-Gov. Ed Rendell reduced the state portion of K-12 funding with that influx. Once the one-time money went away, Gov. Tom Corbett increased state funding for 2013-14 and raised it about $10 billion, the highest level ever. Funding per student in the last 15 years has also increased 33 percent after adjusting for inflation.

Pension crisis denial: While conjuring a crisis in education funding, the PSEA has ignored the fact that the state is facing a massive $29 billion shortfall in its school employee pension system, the result of unsustainable increases in pension benefits from over a decade ago. Unless comprehensive reform is enacted, the burden will result in higher property taxes and pension costs crowding out other government spending, including education. But the PSEA only tells educators that their pension is a promise, and "don't let Governor Corbett break it" (while asking for more PACE donations).

Ridiculing Gov. Corbett: A mock history chapter from the May 2013 magazine has lines such as "funding cuts crush schools" and "can PSEA members help to elect a new governor in 2014?" Another insert calls Corbett's education budget a "shameful freefall." And in July, a four-page cartoon and PACE solicitation depicted Corbett as a lounge singer with a lousy hits like "C'Mon, Baby, Cut My Pension." The ad prompted Pennsylvania teacher Steve Calabro to ask,

If a teacher found a mean-spirited caricature of a public official drawn by a student, would they A) applaud and help the student put the official down, B) force the rest of the class to pay money to help make more offensive drawings, or C) try to educate the student as to why being disrespectful is not the best course of action in life? One of these sounds like a teacher, the other two are PSEA.

Well said, Steve. Other teachers are asking why their union dues have to fund such political activities, which are surprisingly subsidized by taxpayers—a practice that must end.



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