Paul Gregory

Teacher Unions, Mac the Knife, and Dollar Power

The poor can be bought for little or nothing, the charming scoundrel Macheath (“Mac the Knife”) discovered when his old favorite, Jenny, was persuaded by the Peachums to turn him in for a pittance.  True of the 18thCentury beggars celebrated in the “Threepenny Opera,” the principle applies no less well to struggling 21stcentury nonprofits.

Since the National Education Association (NEA) can collect multi-millions of dollars through a check-off system that generates revenues directly from teacher paychecks (unless a teacher specifically objects), the NEA, a la Peachum, can invest in the work of less-advantaged non-profits that ostensibly have entirely different agendas.  Even a little bit of money can produce a valuable ally somewhere down the line.

During the 2010-11 fiscal year, the NEA invested $18.8 million dollars in a bewildering array of grateful non-profit groups and organizations, the Education Intelligence Agency tells us.

Some of the money goes to ostensibly independent research groups, such as a $250,000 grant to the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (which has migrated to the University of Colorado at Boulder, which received another quarter million in direct funding), a $255,000 grant to the Economic Policy Institute, a reliably pro-labor “think tank,” and a $50,000 award to Phi Delta Kappa, which publishes a journal highly protective of union interests.

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