A Fact Sheet About Unions & Education Spending

Spending and Taxes

In CA, between 2000-2001 and 2010-2011, 14,000 teaching positions were lost, but 4,000 administrators and Pupil Services workers (nurses, counselors, librarians, etc.) were added. Also, 14,000 classified workers (classroom aides, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, etc.) were added. See the numbers here.

Over the past four decades, per pupil spending in California has doubled. In dollar terms, Californians are spending $27 billion more today on K-12 education than they did in 1974 – and that is after controlling for both enrollment growth and inflation.

Teachers unions constantly clamor for tax hikes. In November 2012 they successfully campaigned for Prop. 30, which raised income tax for some and sales tax for all. In 2016, Prop. 55 extended the tax hikes but did away with the sales tax increase. According to Richard Rider:

  • Prior to Prop 30 passing in Nov. 2012, CA already had the 3rd worst state income tax rate in the nation. Our 9.3% tax bracket started at under $50,000 for people filing as individuals. 10.3% started at $1 million.
  • Now our “millionaires’ tax” rate is 13.3% – including capital gains (CA total CG rate now the 2nd highest in the world!). 10+% taxes now start at $250K. CA now has by far the nation’s highest state income tax rate.
  • We are 21% higher than 2nd place Hawaii, and a heck of a lot higher than all the rest – including 8 states with zero state income tax – NH only taxes dividends and interest income (not capital gains).
  • CA is so bad, we also have the nation's 2nd highest state income tax bracket. AND the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 8th.
  • CA has the highest state sales tax rate in the nation. 7.25% (does not include local sales taxes). 9th highest state with the average local sales tax included (8.68%).
  • CA has a nasty $800 minimum state corporate income tax, even if no profit is earned, and even for many nonprofits. Most states have no such minimum tax.

The Teachers Unions

Every teacher contract in California has a provision whereby teachers who are union representatives get classroom time off each month to do union business. While the union might pay for the sub, the union rep is being paid by the taxpayer.

It is the taxpayer-supported school district, not the teachers unions, that collects the union dues that teachers are forced to pay in CA.

In 2015-2016, The National Education Association collected $367 million in dues and spent $138 million on politics.

According to Mike Antonucci, the combined revenue of NEA and its affiliates was about $1.6 billion in 2015. “That does not include the revenues of some 13,000 local affiliates, ranging from a multimillion-dollar concern like United Teachers Los Angeles down to the tiniest affiliates that charge no local dues at all. Unions pay no federal or state taxes on this income, which increases their spending power considerably.”

The California Teachers Association took in $190 million – all tax-free – in 2015-6

CTA is by far the biggest political spender in the state. According to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the union spent over $211 million on politics between 2000 and 2009.

In 2014-2015, CTA Executive Director/Uniserve Mgr. Walter Boyd made over $514,000 in total compensation.

In 2014-2015, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten made $440,000 in total compensation.

Now retired, former NEA president Reg Weaver’s $242,000 pension is paid by taxpayers.

Teachers and Students

Because of an archaic tenure system, it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to rid a school system of one incompetent or criminal teacher.

The median teacher’s annual salary in CA is $77,429, third highest in the country. (That amount does not include the teacher’s health plan and a state pension plan.)

On the 2017 NAEP, we were near the bottom nationally, with 69 percent of 4th grade students not proficient in both math and reading. According to The Literacy Project, there are currently 45 million Americans who are functionally illiterate, unable to read above a 5th grade level, and half of all adults can’t read a book at an 8th grade level. In California, 25 percent of the state’s 6 million students are unable to perform basic reading skills

Teachers in CA do not pay into the Social Security System, but they do make contributions to the State Teacher Retirement System. (10.25 percent of each paycheck.) But since the taxpayer pays the teachers, it is the taxpayer who is on the hook for this portion of the teacher’s pension. The “employer” then contributes another 16.28 percent. The employer of course is the school district which receives its funding from the taxpayer. The state (again the taxpayer) kicks in another 9.8 percent. So it is the taxpayer who subsidizes the whole thing. As former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed writes, the taxpayer will have to pay yet again because the system is unsustainable.

Teachers can pad their pay by taking useless “professional development” classes that can “earn” them an extra million dollars in their careers and retirement.

When teachers in CA retire, they can cash in any sick time they have not used. (Teachers typically get about ten sick days per year.) This means that if a teacher works for 30 years and retires with 180 unused sick days, they are credited with having taught 31 years. (180 days equal one full school year.)

It has been estimated that 5 to 7 percent of teachers should not be teaching. In CA, there are about 300,000 teachers. If we use the middle number – 6 percent – that means that there are 18,000 teachers who shouldn’t be in the classroom. If each of these teachers has 25 kids in their class, that means 450,000 kids a year are getting an inferior education. (This is only counting elementary teachers. Middle and high school teachers have more students, thus can inflict more damage.) According to Eric Hanushek, “Assuming the upper-bound estimate of teachers’ impact, U.S achievement could reach that in Canada and Finland if we replaced with average teachers the least effective 5 to 7 percent of teachers, respectively. Assuming the lower-bound estimate of teachers’ impact, U.S achievement could reach that in Canada and Finland if we replaced with average teachers the least effective 8 to 12 percent of teachers, respectively.”

A recent study details an employment explosion in America’s public schools. Between 1950 and 2009, the number of K-12 public school students in the United States increased by 96 percent while the number of full-time school employees grew 386 percent. “Public schools grew staffing at a rate four times faster than the increase in students over that time period. Of those personnel, teachers’ numbers increased 252 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students.” After a brief downturn in 2011-2012, the surge is back.

After having spent over $200 billion on Head Start since 1965, the federal government now tells us in a report that the program doesn’t work. “There was little evidence of systematic differences in children’s elementary school experiences through 3rd grade, between children provided access to Head Start and their counterparts in the control group,” the researchers wrote in the executive summary.

Skip to content