Teachers’ union raises dues: Will the dollars go toward teachers’ professional needs or politics?

Education Minnesota—the state’s teachers’ union—has increased state membership dues by $10 for the 2020 school year.

While this may not sound like much, it adds up. And for the member teachers paying it, it makes no small difference either, considering they pay on average between $800 to $1,000 in dues a year.

2020-2021 School Year Dues Structure
National Dues (NEA and AFT): $251.16
State Dues (Education Minnesota): $500.00
Local Dues: Varies

The total amount paid to the union varies because the dues assessed by the “local rep” are different district to district. National and state dues increase almost every year, but local dues tend to hold steady. A focus group conducted by Educated Teachers revealed that member teachers had a general idea of what they pay to the union annually; no one could name the exact amount. That may be because union dues are like taxes—they come out of your paycheck before you get it. If teachers had to pay dues directly to the union, it is likely more teachers would know what they were spending.

So, what will Education Minnesota spend the dues increase on?

Following the Janus v. AFSCME decision in 2018 that freed public employees from being forced to financially support a government union in order to keep their job, there was an expectation that unions would spend their dues revenue more wisely—such as, more on meeting their members’ professional needs and less on divisive politics that could alienate members and send them and their money running for the exit.

According to Education Minnesota’s most recently available federal filing report, the union has spent more cash on what it self-labels as “Representational Activities” compared to previous years, but it also increased spending on what it self-labels as “Political Activities and Lobbying.” In addition, the union’s PAC spending continues to serve the interests of one political party, which undermines varying political ideologies within their member base. If the union’s purported responsibilities are workplace representation, why is it even involved in politics in the first place?

We won’t know what the dues increase is going to be spent on for a year or so. (Maybe toward Education Minnesota President Denise Specht’s salary that is nearly $200,000?) But given the number of teachers who still feel that the union’s priorities are out of touch and too focused on politics—and let the union know by opting out of membership this year—the union might want to reconsider where it spends its dues revenue.