The top officials at Education Minnesota, the state teachers union, each made over $200,000 while advocating for school and business closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to filings with the U.S. Department of Labor, President Denise Specht made $211,639 between Sept. 1, 2020 and August 31, 2021. Her vice president and treasurer each made $216,000.
More than 80 Education Minnesota employees made over $100,000 during the same time period, the filing shows. Several of these employees are only described as “field staff” on the Department of Labor filing.
“Teachers union leaders are very generous to themselves with the dollars they take from teachers’ paychecks apparently,” Ashley Varner of the Freedom Foundation wrote in a recent column for the Duluth News Tribune.
She pointed out that the union received $32 million in union dues but spent just $10.4 million on “representational activities.” Another $3.4 million was spent on “political activities,” while $2.8 million went to “contributions, gifts, and grants.” Most of the union’s gifts and grants went to locally affiliated teachers unions.
Throughout the pandemic, Education Minnesota advocated for strict measures to combat the virus, including school closures and regulations on economic activity.
Specht applauded Gov. Tim Walz’s “four-week pause on social activities, in-person dining, adult and youth sports and fitness establishments” in November 2020.
“It’s time for every Minnesotan to mask up, keep their distance and avoid crowds,” she said. “The experts in public health have said what we need to do, but it’s up to each of us to make it work.”
When the governor closed schools, she said it was “heartbreaking” but “the right decision.”
According to its website, Education Minnesota comprises 463 local teachers unions throughout the state and over 89,000 members. It is affiliated with two national teachers unions, namely the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
Despite boasting such numbers, Education Minnesota has not escaped a growing nationwide trend of declining teachers union memberships. The organization lost 1.7% of its members during the 2020-21 school year, according to education news outlet The 74.
Both of its parent organizations, the NEA and AFT, lost 2.3% and 2.1% of its members, respectively. Still other teachers unions lost greater percentages. The Ohio Federation of Teachers saw a whopping 7.5% membership decline.
Alpha News reached out to Education Minnesota for comment but did not receive a response.