In Partnership with 74

Analysis: California Teachers Association’s claims of new membership don’t add up

Mike Antonucci | August 14, 2019

Your donation will help us produce journalism like this. Please give today.

Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears weekly at LA School Report.

Last week, we reported the news that the California Faculty Association, representing 19,000 employees of the California State University system, suddenly decided to drop its affiliation with both the California Teachers Association and the National Education Association.

Everyone involved is being very close-mouthed about the secession, but EdSource did report this little detail:

“The CTA anticipates that some 22,000 new members it says it has recruited over the past year will offset the approximately 19,000 CSU staff the CTA says belonged to both the faculty association and the CTA. The CTA says its overall membership will remain around 325,000.”

That’s some fancy math.

Eventually, I will be able to verify or debunk those numbers, but it often takes a long time, perhaps even many months. So I can’t say for certain that the union is full of crap — but this doesn’t pass the smell test.

First, the California Department of Education reports that the state’s teacher workforce grew by a cumulative total of only 18,000 between 2014 and 2018. If we increased the number of teachers by 7.2 percent in 2019, I must have missed the news.

Second, it would have made the news, since enrollment in the state’s schools dropped by 16,000 students during the previous four years (including charter schools), a trend that is likely to continue.

Third, only once in CTA history has it ever recorded a percentage increase as high as what it currently claims. That was in 1997-98, the year after the legislature passed the Class Size Reduction Act and it was signed into law. Matching that without a similar teacher hiring frenzy and after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus ruling banned the practice of charging agency fees to nonmembers defies belief.

Fourth, at its convention in July, the National Education Association reported an increase of only 13,853 members in 2019. If CTA accounted for this entire number and another 5,000-plus members, it escaped the notice of everyone, including NEA.

Despite the loss of the Cal State faculty, CTA remains in much better shape than virtually every other teachers union in the nation. It has political influence others can only dream of. That being true, it does the union no real harm to acknowledge its setbacks in both membership and higher education policy. The games CTA officials are playing regarding the union’s internal issues only raise doubts about every other statement they make.

Read Next