How Much Colo. Teachers Union Member Losses Tied to Greater Options?

A couple months ago I clued you in to the sentimental sounds of national union officials bemoaning historic losses in membership this year. The Colorado Watchdog reports that the union in our own backyard faces an even bigger decline:

State-by-state membership data disclosed last month to delegates at the union’s national convention and obtained by the blog Education Intelligence Agency show the [Colorado Education Association] lost 1,512 of its 36,991 active members — or 4.1 percent — between the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years. Meanwhile, a CEA official in Denver acknowledges the state union experienced another loss of approximately 2,000 members during the most recent academic year.

The NEA lost about 3 percent of its membership from 2011 to 2012, but this report suggests the Colorado affiliate’s losses are greater than 5 percent! While the CEA spokesperson credits the losses to budget cuts and employment attrition, other experts (including one of my Education Policy Center friends) offered additional insights to Watchdog reporter Dan Njegomir:

Policy analyst Ben DeGrow, of the Independence Institute’s Education Policy Center in Denver, says it could be that the union’s overall political tilt, heavily favoring Democratic candidates in its campaign contributions, translates to education-policy stances that don’t make sense to the latest generation of teachers….

“A lot of the young teachers may be turned off by some of the union’s aggressive positions against education reforms like pay for performance,” DeGrow said.

Colorado teachers are more privileged than their counterparts in many other states because of the extent of membership options available. While it’s extremely difficult to tell the precise causes of Colorado’s teacher union membership decline, the fact that the drop-off is bigger than the national trend suggests a greater power to choose has a lot to do with it. And maybe more teachers are looking for something more… or something else.