The Pennsylvania State Education Association, the state’s largest government union with 192,000 members, spent an astonishing $2.6 million in 2009-10 on “political activities and lobbying.” If that seems like a lot, consider than in 2010-11, the PSEA poured a jaw-dropping $4.2 million of union dues on lobbying—an increase of 60 percent in just one year. The union’s political lobbying spending has more than tripled since 2004, as the graph below shows. And the lobbying figure doesn’t count money the union raises separately to elect candidates, which in 2009-10 was a further $2.3 million.
With millions to burn, the PSEA is easily the heaviest hitter in Pennsylvania politics, working not for but against children by opposing school choice, whether it’s vouchers for students in the most violent, failing schools or in charter or cyber schools that give families more educational options.
The PSEA also works against the best interest of its teachers by supporting “last-in, first-out,” a policy that lays off teachers based on seniority rather than good performance. And the PSEA hurts taxpayers by lobbying for increased property and state taxes that we can ill afford, all while student achievement statewide has stagnated over the last decade.
Contrast the PSEA’s spending power with other interests, such as online education provider K12 Inc. (recently vilified in a New York Times article) or gas drillers in the Marcellus Shale. K12 reportedly spent $681,000 in Pennsylvania on lobbying—but that was over four years. At that rate, it would take 25 years to match the PSEA’s spending over the past 12 months. If you wondered why school children didn’t get education reform this Christmas, the PSEA lobbyists are providing millions of reasons.