Regular readers of this web site know that over the years we’ve chronicled the decline in NEA/NCAE membership.
Our interest in these numbers stems from the radical views of both organizations as well as the common practice of both organizations of making political contributions to candidates whose views are at odds with those of its members. If those problems weren’t enough, let’s also say, NCAE has proven to be one of the biggest obstacles to real education reform in North Carolina.
So how big is NCAE?
That’s a good question. Over the weekend AP reporter Gary Robertson penned an article chronicling NCAE’s struggles to stay relevant in an era of Republican majorities in the legislature. When Robertson asked about NCAE membership, Tim Crowley, a spokesman for the group said the organization does not release membership numbers. It is interesting to note that Robertson said figures on the NCAE web site list membership at 70,000.
The exchange did not escape the watchful eye of Mike Antonucci at the Education Intelligence Agency. Yesterday Antonucci blogged on what he thought of the NCAE membership numbers.
If you never update your web site, that means membership losses never happened, right? Fortunately you don’t have to rely on NEA’s state affiliates to release membership information. NCAE’s total membership has never been as high as 70,000. It peaked at 64,341 in 2001. The trend over the last five years has been disastrous. NCAE lost more than one-third of its’ total membership, and even worse, almost 46 percent of active its members. It’s total membership fell below 40,000 in 2014. Fewer than 26,000 of that number are actually working in North Carolina public schools. Unofficial numbers for 2015 indicate total membership continued to fall, descending below the 38,000 mark.
Why are NCAE membership numbers significant? Under North Carolina law, NCAE must maintain a membership level of at least 40,000 to qualify for the dues checkoff benefit. NCAE has fought hard in court to maintain the dues check off benefit. The State Auditor is required to publish an audit certifying NCAE membership numbers but has yet to do so this year.
Earlier this year Civitas asked NCAE President, Rodney Ellis to provide membership numbers. We also sought to obtain the same numbers by contacting local school districts. To date we have received no response from NCAE. Our inquiries to local school districts have met with limited success.
Antonucci’s unofficial numbers for 2015 show membership below 38,000. If those numbers are accurate, NCAE would not qualify for the dues check off benefit. NCAE certainly has the right to dispute the numbers. However, so far they haven't.
In the meantime, we continue to wonder why the state continues to confer a benefit when the organization refuses to provide information that demonstrates NCAE is in compliance with state law.
NCAE or the state auditor can easily resolve the matter. Meanwhile, we continue to wait.