One of the stories in education this week has been the final settlement of the WEA v. Evergreen Freedom Foundation lawsuit regarding union dues being spent on politics; the releavant press release from the EFF here and here. They spent a lot of time and effort on this effort, and I don't begrudge them their satisfaction, but the case is being a bit overstated. For example, from an email that I received this morning:
But the $1.2 million in penalties and restitution was the least of the unionâ€™s losses. The union also suffered a major blow to its reputation as the entity that claims it's "all about the kids." Few people, policy folks, or members of the media believe that any longer. Over the last ten years the number of teachers who voluntarily give to the union's PAC has plummeted and remains very low.
Truth is, over the last 5 years the number of teachers who voluntarily give to the union's PAC has increased dramatically. We're now at about 25,000 WEA-PAC members statewide. A scant few of years ago, it was less than 10,000. Given that one of the bigger membership drives is the time right up to Rep Assembly next month, WEAPAC could be tickling 30,000 members right soon. I'm betting there are more than a few groups around the state who would love to have that kind of membership.
In the years since Davenport was decided in January of 2007, the WEA was at the front lines of getting the simple majority for school levies passed, did quite well in the 2008 elections, got absolutely creamed in the 2009 legislative session, and recovered nicely this year to win legislative battles on levy equalization and school reform. It's very hard to look at what they have accomplished and declare that their reputation is damaged beyond the veil; the current Race to the Top fad is constructed for union input, much to the consternation of some.
The beat goes on.