state of the union

Where do city teachers’ union dues go? A detailed breakdown

Every two weeks, $49.89 is taken out of teachers’ paychecks as UFT dues. Depending on their jobs, other members of the UFT contribute different amounts, ranging from $24.95 for paraprofessionals to $51.08 for psychologists and social workers. For all union members, dues are a flat fee determined by position, not a percentage of their salary.

The union doesn’t spend all of its money every year, or immediately, of course. But because member dues and fees are spent on all facets of the union’s operation, it’s reasonable to track dues to spending. If we did that for the union’s total spending for the 2011-2012 fiscal year ($166,528,712), this is how a teacher’s (then-lower, $49.39) dues payment would have been divided up:

(Scroll over the chart for details and look below the jump for even more information.) 

Dues to AFT, NYSUT, and AFL-CIO: A UFT spokesman estimated the breakdown as $26 million to the state teachers union, NYSUT (50 percent, so $7.54 of check), $20 million to the national American Federation of Teachers (or $5.80), and $4 million to the national labor union AFL-CIO ($1.16).

General overhead: These costs include $3,291,946 for electricity, rent, and cleaning services for the union’s conjoined buildings, 50-52 Broadway, and mundane expenses like $115,884 for coffee, sugar, and water and $227,963 to AT&T. Other expeditures: $60,065 on AMC movie tickets for resell to members, and $190,000 to Bill Lynch Associates, a consulting firm that works with Democratic candidates and labor unions.

Representational activities: Most of this money is spent on the “bread and butter work” of the union — legal fees for representing union members with grievances and other issues. It also includes money spent on television and newspaper ads, like the nearly $1.7 million the union spent on TV ads last January and February and $30,000 for ads in the New York Post opposing the city’s teacher evaluation plans. Other spending: $306,500 in dues for the AFL-CIO’s NYC Central Labor Council, and $10,440 spent on buses to the Panel for Educational Policy meeting where officials voted to begin phasing out 22 city schools.

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Loan making: This comes mostly from two major loans: a $9.9 million loan that reflects a refinancing of the UFT’s building, and $11.7 million for the UFT charter school.

Benefits for members: This includes money for the UFT Welfare Fund, pensions, death benefits for paraprofessionals, and other retiree benefits. The biggest costs: $5,799,201 for pensions and $2,971,252 for health insurance provider Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Union administration: This includes hotel bills like $798,254 spent at the Hilton Rye Town for chapter leader weekends and other trainings and $462,297 spent at the Hilton in Chicago for conferences, plus $567,152 for electricity, rent, and cleaning services for the union’s conjoined buildings, 50-52 Broadway. Other, perhaps less administrative costs, include $8,765 on UFT tote bags.

Lobbying and political activities: This is money the union spends supporting efforts like Lobby Day (with associated bills for buses, parking, hotels, and buttons), plus catering for phone bank volunteers, buses to rallies across the city, and postage for mailings ($85,790 to one company for mailers and campaign literature). This doesn’t include donations to politicians, which are funded by the Committee on Political Education, the union’s political action arm. Most teachers choose to donate $5 per pay period to COPE.

Taxes: No details.

Contributions, gifts and grants: This is money the union gives to nonprofits, charities and other organizations — not politicians. Some of the biggest winners were Planned Parenthood of NYC ($125,000 donation), Rev. Al Sharpton’s civil rights organization National Action Network ($50,800), the New York City Parents Union ($24,000), and West Indian America Day (a $50,000 sponsorship).

Loan repayment: This comes almost exclusively from a $1.2 million loan repaid to the UFT Educational Foundation, which supports the union’s charter school.

Other purchases: Those purchases are mostly furniture ($210,955), computers ($56,376), property improvements ($401,690), and cars ($68,909).

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”