The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) is the largest teacher’s union in North Carolina. The organization calls itself “the voice of educators in North Carolina.” NCAE led many efforts to boost teacher or educator pay as well as to mobilize educators for elections. NCAE has a big megaphone. And becuase the organization’s positions on policy frequently mirror the editorial boards of many local newspapers, more than a few of us on the conservative side think the organization receives more than its fair share of favorable coverage.
One story newspapers have been hesitant to cover in recent years are the troubling trends afflicting the oganization in recent years. Earlier this week, veteran teacher union watcher Mike Antonucci, released his annual data on membership and financial statistics for National Education Association (NEA) state affiliates (NCAE is the state affiliate of the NEA in North Carolina). The numbers were not encouraging. Total membership in NCAE declined 6 percent over last year to 28,725, the third largest decline in the country. Revenue also declined; 1.1 percent over last year to $5.7 million. But the one-year numbers fail to tell the entire story. If you review Antonucci’s previous data, say from 2013-2019 you will note NCAE membership and revenue has declined significantly. Overall membership is down 33 percent while revenue was down 30 percent. Members are leaving NCAE in droves. Only NCAE knows how many teachers are members of the organization (they have refused to make public that information.) It’s not impossible to venture an educated guess. We have approximately 28,000 educators in NCAE. Say half of those are teachers, 14,000. North Carolina has approximately 93,000 public school teachers. That would mean that approximately 15 percent of the current teacher population is NCAE members. Hardly a number that would suggest an organization that speaks for all teachers.
If you look for any stories in local papers about NCAE’s membership decline or tight finances, you won’t find any. The only people writing on the subject are from the right side of the political spectrum. It’s easy to find stories about yesterday’s NCAE press conference at the General Assembly, but you will find nothing about NCAE’s loss of membership and erosion of influence. It’s hard to ignore the radical stances of NCAE and the.numbers of disaffected members. Any reasonable person would assume the two are connected. It’s a story that bears telling. Yet newspapers continue to ignore it. Why?