California's teacher unions - principally the huge California Teachers Association - are the nation's sixth strongest when it comes to raising money and influencing politics and educational policy, according to a new study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an educational think tank in Washington, D.C. The group, which includes former U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige on its board, advocates for charter schools.
The report was issued just a week before California teacher unions' fundraising prowess and influence are tested by two big ballot measures, Proposition 30, which would raise taxes by $6 billion a year, and Proposition 32, which would severely curtail unions' ability to raise political funds from their members. The CTA and other unions support the former and oppose the latter and at the moment, both appear headed for defeat.
Hawaii's teacher unions are the most influential, the study concluded, followed by those in Oregon, Montana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and California. Those in Arizona are considered to be the weakest of all the states and the District of Columbia.
The study's detailed report on California concludes, "California's NEA and AFT state affiliates have relatively robust resources, although education spending in the state, and on teachers in particular, is not particularly high.
"The Golden State has the 11th-highest rate of teacher union membership - 93.6 percent of teachers are unionized. The two state unions bring in $597 annually per teacher in the state (13th of 51). ...The Golden State's teacher unions are quite powerful; in a state that does not spend much on K-12 education, they've gathered considerable internal resources (and do not shy away from dedicating those resources to state politics - with apparent success, given their present reputation for influence).
"Although charter and employment policies are not well aligned with traditional union interests, California is exceptionally permissive when it comes to teacher bargaining rights."