National Education Association Calls for Fight Against Income Inequality

Published November 16, 2015

The National Education Association’s (NEA) top union executives have claimed to take a stand against “income inequality” over the past few years.

At its 2015 national convention, NEA passed a resolution it says shows the union’s commitment to closing the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

The resolution stated, in part, “NEA will advocate to address income inequality and tax fairness in this country at both national and local levels. They will communicate the effects of these areas on our students in our public schools to the Senate and the House at the federal level.”

Despite those stated goals, NEA’s top executive made 7.5 times more money than the average teacher he represented.

“In short, union leaders are exempting themselves from their own rhetoric,” said Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network in Los Angeles. “Either they need to take a steep cut in pay or stop complaining about corporate CEO income. Their blatant hypocrisy seems to be a bottomless pit.”

Leaders in the 1 Percent

CNN estimated in 2011 it took a household income of $389,000 to crack the top 1 percent of income in the United States. Adjusted for inflation, this figure was $409,401 in 2014. Former NEA President Dennis Van Roekel made $429,509 in salary and had a total compensation of $541,632 in 2014 in his final year as NEA president, according to a financial report the union filed with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia succeeded Van Roekel as president of NEA in September 2014. She is one of the high-profile signers of the Progressive Agenda to Combat Income Inequality, a movement to collect signatures from celebrities and high-powered professionals in support of national laws addressing issues such as paid sick leave, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit subsidy, and raising the federal minimum wage.

In 2014, as vice president of the NEA, Garcia had a $262,521 salary and a total compensation of $345,728.

NEA had 12 other employers paid salaries of $200,000-plus in 2014. This includes NEA Executive Director John Stocks.

On July 4, 2015, Stocks gave a speech at an NEA event in which he said, “America is not working for most Americans” and laid part of the blame on income inequality. Stocks had a salary of $298,416 in 2014 and a total compensation of $412,398. Total compensation reported includes bonuses and deferred compensation as well as some business expense reimbursements.

The average U.S. public school teacher salary for 2013–14 was $56,610, according to the NEA’s own study. This means a public school teacher earning a mean salary would be in the top 48 percent of U.S. income earners.

While teachers in some states faced salary freezes, Van Roekel’s salary increased. He received a salary of $306,286 in 2013 and got a $123,000 raise in 2014, a pay hike of more than twice the average salary of a U.S. school teacher.

Eskelsen Garcia’s salary as the newly elected president of NEA is not expected to be filed with the U.S. Department of Labor until late November 2015.

Tom Gantert ([email protected]) is senior capitol correspondent for Michigan Capitol Confidential, a daily news site of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Image by Education International.