- The NCAE still refuses to disclose its membership numbers to the State Auditor
- Failing to meet legal requirements, NCAE should no longer receive state government dues deduction services
- Taxpayers should not be forced to finance such services for NCAE or any other private professional association
Last week, State Auditor Beth Wood reported that her office had been unable to certify the membership numbers of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE). State law (G.S. 143B-426.40(g) requires the auditor to certify employee associations meet threshold membership requirements before the state provides payroll dues deduction services.
It was the third year in a row NCAE refused to comply with the Auditor’s request for membership information.
It’s true that the state has no legal authority to compel a private organization to supply membership information. It’s also true that NCAE has failed to meet the legal requirements to qualify for dues payroll deduction services.
In a letter NCAE wrote to state officials earlier this year, NCAE stated its position;
The NCAE believe the law as written and being implemented by the state Auditor is overly intrusive in violation of constitutional rights of the association and its members and further exceeds the authority of the state Auditor.
In the meantime, North Carolina state government – using taxpayer dollars – continues to provide payroll dues services for organizations that meet the membership requirement – as well as for NCAE which does not.
According to the State Auditor’s report, North Carolina provides payroll dues deduction services for more than 44,500 members spanning 13 employee associations. The largest organization is the State Employee Association of North Carolina (SEANC) with 50,849 members, 27,493 of which access payroll dues deduction. The second largest organization is the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE). According to the report 6,402 NCAE members receive dues payroll deduction. NCAE has refused to provide documents to verify total membership numbers. Other Employee Associations also on the list include: NC Public Services Workers Union (UIE Local 150), Teamsters Local 391 and Teamsters Local 71. Two other education-related employee associations receiving dues payroll deduction services include the North Carolina Classroom Teachers Association and the North Carolina Association of Teacher Assistants.
Of course, these developments beg the question: Why do North Carolina taxpayers continue to fund dues deduction payroll services to an organization that refuses to provide information to verify it has sufficient membership to legally receive the service?
With their refusal to report membership figures, the only logical conclusion is that NCAE lacks the membership numbers to qualify for dues payroll deduction. The fact is, the benefits of payroll deduction are sufficiently large enough that you can be sure if NCAE had at least 40,000 members, the State Auditor would be certifying the numbers.
The issue is NCAE lacks membership and the state continues to provide dues check off services.
Each year, Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency tracks membership in the National Education Association (NEA) by state affiliate. In June of this year, Antonucci reported NEA total membership in North Carolina declined 40 percent over the period 2011-2016. Total NCAE membership (active and retired) was 32,918.
These are not good times for NCAE. In February of this year, Antonucci listed North Carolina as one of NEA’s 5 Shakiest States. He reported that NCAE lost 9.6 percent of active members in 2015, had only about half the members it had in 2010, fell below the threshold (40,000 members) for payroll deduction of dues and ran a deficit of nearly $700,000 in 2015.
It’s no secret that NCAE is the biggest lobbying group for public school teachers in North Carolina. It’s also no secret an overwhelmingly high percentage of NCAE campaign contributions go to Democrats, regardless of the political leanings of its members. According to Follow the Money.org, over the past twenty-three years, only 5.6 percent of NCAE campaign contributions in North Carolina went to Republican candidates; 87 percent went to Democratic candidates, the remainder went to non-designated, nonpartisan or third-party candidates.
Much as people want to call this a political problem, it isn’t. We shouldn’t pick and choose which organizations can violate the law. Equally important, there is no reason why the government should provide payroll services for private organizations – regardless of political leanings. In doing so, government confers financial benefits and advantages to certain organizations. Government tilts the playing field and controls who wins and loses.
Requiring the State Auditor to certify NCAE membership numbers has not solved this problem. The only real solution, in my view, is to end state government payroll deduction for all public employees and employee associations. It is an option Civitas has advocated since the Legislature attempted to end payroll deduction for NCAE in 2012.
Earlier this year, Sen. Ralph Hise (R- Madison) introduced legislation SB 375 to do just that. The Senate approved the bill. However, the House adjourned before it could give it full consideration. The bill can still be voted on when lawmakers reconvene in 2018.
SB 375 ends a cumbersome and ineffective certification process. It goes a long way toward leveling the playing field and getting the government out of the business of providing administrative services for private organizations.
If there are reasons why anyone would oppose these ends, state your case. I’m all ears.