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Antonucci: The California Teachers Association — the union other unions want to be

Mike Antonucci | March 27, 2018

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

The Los Angeles Times once called the California Teachers Association “arguably the most potent force in state politics.” I don’t think there is any argument about it. Its influence over education policy is legendary. CTA’s leverage over the state budget lifts it well beyond what other interest groups are able to accomplish.

CTA’s political clout is extraordinary, but its real achievement is in the way it survives, and even thrives, in an environment of continuous decline of labor unions. Its balance sheet is the envy of both private- and public-sector unions across the nation.

As a tax-exempt organization, CTA is required to file annual financial disclosure reports with the Internal Revenue Service. Its most recent filing, for the 2015-16 school year, shows it received $190 million in revenue and ran a surplus of almost $4.5 million. Unlike many other state affiliates of the National Education Association, CTA is largely self-sufficient, receiving only 7 percent of its total income from NEA subsidies.

CTA has also avoided the financial pitfalls other NEA state affiliates have encountered. By consistently keeping income ahead of expenditures, it has amassed net assets of nearly $191 million. For comparison, the net assets of New York State United Teachers are a negative $414 million.

CTA holds $171 million in publicly traded securities and $48.1 million of real estate. It is doing rather well for itself.

That’s not to say CTA is frugal. Almost half of those annual revenues are spent on staff compensation. The average salary paid to the 522 employees who received paychecks from CTA in 2015-16 was $90,678. The union reported that 283 staffers received more than $100,000 in taxable compensation.

CTA’s executive officers receive free companion travel, tax indemnification and gross-up payments, and “limited wellness related expenses generally up to $1,000 per year.”

It would take a substantial drop in membership to significantly affect CTA’s bottom line. The union is well-situated not only to weather a storm, but to invest tens of millions into its next ballot initiative project — the weakening of Proposition 13, California’s seminal property tax limitation measure that has withstood challenges for 40 years.

Proponents of the California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act of 2018 claim it will add $11 billion to school funding. Since CTA ties by formula its dues levels and executive salaries to the average teacher salary in the state, any increase in teacher wages will lead to an increase in CTA revenues, which in turn increases funds available for future initiatives and activism.

For an organization that bemoans private corporations profiting from public education, CTA has turned it into an art form.

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