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).

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

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 cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

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