Teachers’ Unions Spend Over $27 Million on State Races

Marc Joffe

In a recent op-ed, California Federation of Teachers (CFT) President Joshua Pechthalt calls out special interests for pouring money into California elections in support of charter schools. He writes:

The charter association spent better than $24 million in relatively few races this year. Oakland, where previously $20,000 was a lot of money for a school board race, was awash in a half-million dollars in contributions, mostly from the charter association and another billionaire-funded committee.

Missing from Perchthalt’s piece is the fact that the CFT and other teacher’s unions are also big-spending special interests. Indeed, they spend considerably more on political donations than charter advocates.

Based on our review on campaign contribution and independent expenditure data reported by the Secretary of State, we find that teacher’s unions spent over $27 million on state-wide races during the current election cycle.  The largest contributions are shown in the chart at the end of this article. Actual teacher union political spending is much higher because the Secretary of State’s data do not include contributions to school board candidates and other local campaigns. For example, according to data available from the Oakland City Clerk, the Oakland Education Association PAC made over $80,000 in donations and independent expenditures in the most recent election.

With respect to the state-level spending, most of it was devoted to supporting Propositions 55 and 58. Proposition 55 extends higher marginal tax rates on top income earners for another twelve years, funneling most of the added revenue to education. The union’s argument that this is good for students, but the correlation between spending and student achievement is dubious. According to 2014 Census data, Washington DC public schools received funding of $29,866 per pupil – by far the highest in the nation. Yet DC students performed worse than those in 46 of the 50 states, according to the most recent Education Week achievement scorecard. By contrast, Utah, which which spends only $7,714 per student ranked 14th on the scorecard. California spent $11,223 per student and ranked 30th. So while we know that more public education spending is good for teachers and other employees, the benefits for students are less clear,

Proposition 58 undermined a previous voter-approved restriction on bilingual education. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the initiative would not have a significant fiscal impact, because it does not directly change local funding formulas. However, restarting bilingual education will require new curricula, re-training current teaching staff and hiring new eduators who are fluent in multiple languages.  All of this will have to be funded somehow, and bilingual education could thus be used as a justification for future funding increases.

Aside from propositions, union spending also focused on certain key legislative races. Most notably, teacher’s unions spent over $800,000 to influence the outcome of the 14th District Assembly race between Democrats Mae Torlakson and Tim Grayson in Concord (Contra Costa County). Torlakson is the wife of the State’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who has been characterized as being anti-charter and pro union. In this race, the unions were unsuccessful:  Grayson came out on top.

While it is true that Grayson and other school choice oriented candidates received support from pro-charter groups and affluent individuals, the conversation should not stop there. The California Federation of Teachers, the California Teacher’s Association and other unions are also wealthy special interests, and, unlike many of those vilified billionaires, the unions campaign contributions are funded by our taxes.

Contributor NamePurposeAmount
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5510,000,000.00
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 553,000,000.00
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 552,500,000.00
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 552,500,000.00
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 551,000,000.00
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 55500,000.00
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 58500,000.00
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 58500,000.00
California Teachers Association Independent Expenditure CommitteeSupporting Mae Torlakson (Assembly Dist. 14)375,000.00
American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education (Fed PAC ID# C00028860)Yes on 55250,000.00
California Federation of Teachers COPE Prop/Ballot CommitteeYes on 55250,000.00
California Federation of Teachers COPE Prop/Ballot CommitteeYes on 55250,000.00
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 55250,000.00
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 58250,000.00
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 55215,000.00
California Federation of Teachers COPE Prop/Ballot CommitteeYes on 55200,000.00
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 55189,768.72
California Teachers Association Independent Expenditure CommitteeOpposing Tim Grayson (Assembly Dist. 14)150,000.00
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 55142,323.00
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 55142,323.00
California Federation of Teachers COPE Prop/Ballot CommitteeYes on 58100,000.00
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5887,846.33
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5587,846.33
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5287,846.33
California Teachers Association Independent Expenditure CommitteeSupporting Mae Torlakson (Assembly Dist. 14)84,000.00
California Teachers Association Independent Expenditure CommitteeOpposing Tim Grayson (Assembly Dist. 14)75,000.00
California Retired Teachers Association Initiative CommitteeYes on 5567,000.00
NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATIONYes on 5560,000.00
California Teachers Association Independent Expenditure CommitteeSupporting Mae Torlakson (Assembly Dist. 14)51,800.00
California Teachers Association Issues PACYes on 5850,000.00
United Teachers Los Angeles-Political Action Council of Educators(PACE)IssuesYes on 5550,000.00
United Teachers Los Angeles-Political Action Council of Educators(PACE)IssuesYes on 5850,000.00
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5549,978.61
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5847,442.00
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5847,442.00
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5543,599.73
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5843,599.50
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5843,599.50
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5843,599.50
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5843,599.50
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5543,599.50
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5543,599.50
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5543,599.50
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5543,599.50
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5543,599.50
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5843,599.50
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5843,599.50
United Teachers Los Angeles-Political Action Council of Educators(PACE)IssuesCanvassing for Prop 5542,500.00
United Teachers Los Angeles-Political Action Council of Educators(PACE)IssuesCanvassing for Prop 5842,500.00
California Teachers Association Independent Expenditure CommitteeOpposing Tim Grayson (Assembly Dist. 14)39,124.05
United Teachers Los Angeles-Political Action Council of Educators(PACE)IssuesCanvassing and Phone Banking for Prop 5537,435.11
United Teachers Los Angeles-Political Action Council of Educators(PACE)IssuesCanvassing and Phone Banking for Prop 5837,435.11
California Teachers Association Independent Expenditure CommitteeOpposing Tim Grayson30,788.02
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5528,151.27
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5527,103.42
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5526,801.58
California Federation of Teachers COPESupporting Mariko Yamada (Senate Dist. 3)25,000.00
California Federation of Teachers COPESupporting Mariko Yamada (Senate Dist. 3)25,000.00
California Federation of Teachers COPE Prop/Ballot CommitteeYes on 6225,000.00
CFT Cope Prop/Ballot
No on 6625,000.00
California Federation of Teachers-COPE Prop/Ballot CommitteeYes on 5725,000.00
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5524,598.27
California Teachers Association Independent Expenditure CommitteeOpposing Laura Friedman (Assembly Dist. 43)23,861.00
California Teachers Association Independent Expenditure CommitteeOpposing Tim Grayson (Assembly Dist. 14)23,000.00
California Teachers Association/Issues PACYes on 5522,058.21
California Teachers Association Independent Expenditure CommitteeOpposing Tim Grayson (Assembly Dist. 14)22,000.00
California Federation of Teachers COPE Prop/Ballot CommitteeYes on 6220,000.00
United Teachers Los Angeles-Political Action Council of Educators(PACE)IssuesCanvassing and Phone Banking for Prop 5520,000.00
United Teachers Los Angeles-Political Action Council of Educators(PACE)IssuesCanvassing and Phone Banking for Prop 5820,000.00
All Other1,947,895.09
Total27,244,061.68

PHOTO CREDIT: Los Angeles Times

MORE GREAT ARTICLES

The California Policy Center is a 501c3 non-profit public charity. CA Corp. # 3295222. Federal EIN 27-2870463.
Copyright © California Policy Center 2017. All rights reserved. Developed by The Liberty Lab, Inc.
Yes! Please send me your weekly email with more articles like these.
NEVER DISPLAY THIS AGAIN.