Shining Up My Badge of Honor: Teachers Unions Spend Big on Colorado Politics

Six months ago I told you how Colorado was flattered by the attention from the National Education Association’s political giving during the 2007-08 political cycle. Now we have some rock-solid numbers to back it all up.

In his new report for Education Next titled “The Long Reach of Teachers Unions,” the inimitable Mike Antonucci looks at the big picture of NEA and AFT spending, and then breaks it down state-by-state. He writes:

In the 2007–08 election cycle, total spending on state and federal campaigns, political parties, and ballot measures exceeded $5.8 billion. The first-place NEA spent more than $56.3 million, $12.5 million ahead of the second-place group. That’s not all. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the smaller of the two national professional education unions, ranked 25th in campaign spending, with almost $12 million, while NEA/AFT collaborative campaigns spent an additional $3.4 million, enough to earn the rank of 123rd. All told, the two national teachers unions distributed $71.7 million on candidate and issue campaigns from California to Florida, Massachusetts to South Dakota. Millions more went to policy research to support the unions’ agenda.

A look at the state-by-state chart Antonucci created (PDF) reveals that Colorado was the third-largest target of combined NEA & AFT spending in total dollars. Because Colorado is a relatively small state, we were the second biggest target on a per-teacher spending basis.

In all, the two teachers unions expended $8.3 million on political action in our fair state in 2007-08 — which breaks down to about $174 per teacher. Only Oregon had a bigger bulls-eye. But why Colorado?

As I explained before, a large part of the reason was the unions’ intense opposition to two ballot measures: a Right-to-Work amendment for private employees (despite the fact Colorado teachers themselves have Right-to-Work protections) and the Ethical Standards amendment, which would have kept school districts and other government agencies out of the business of automatic dues collection.

So, being summertime and all, this news is a call to shine up the old badge of honor, pin it on my shirt, and go play Cops and Robbers (or Cops and Union Bosses) in the neighborhood with my friends.