(CNSNews.com) - The National Education Association's union professionals are paid far more than the teachers they represent, prompting one researcher to question the organization's lobbying motives.
According to an internal NEA survey, professional staffers at the New Jersey Education Association rank first nationally with average earnings of $100,018 - nearly twice as much as the state's teachers. In Connecticut, ranked second, NEA union pros make $93,115 on average, and salaries in other states have risen by as much as 60 percent since 1991.
That has Mike Antonucci - a conservative critic and watchdog of the NEA who obtained the report and published it on his Internet site - wondering whether the union cares more about making money than reforming education.
The NEA lobbies for higher teacher salaries and smaller classrooms - both of which translate into increased union dues and inflated salaries for union professionals, said Antonucci.
New Jersey teachers, also the highest paid in the country, average $52,000 a year, and were assessed an average of $462 in dues last year, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.
As for the NEA professionals, "These are people that make a lot of money," Antonucci said. "There's no doubt about it. And they're collecting a large amount of dues from teachers in order to pay these salaries."
"You have to separate what's good for education from the self-interest of the union," said Antonucci, a California-based researcher who founded the Education Intelligence Agency.
While they don't dispute the survey's validity, NEA officials dismissed Antonucci's allegations and defended the salaries as suitable pay for workers who typically have graduate degrees and many years in the education industry.
"What the critics do to us is what they do with teachers too: They take the attitude that anyone who has to do with education should have a suppressed salary," said Karen Joseph, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Education Association.