Oklahoma’s largest teachers’ union losing members

 Amidst credible contentions that national teacher unions are losing memberships, the Oklahoma Education Association lost 707 members during the 2009-2010 year.

The union’s Executive Director, Lela Odom, confirmed the figure.

When OEA media relations staffer Kandis West was asked about the union’s number of active teachers, Odom sent a written statement:

“During the 2009-2010 school year, OEA lost 707 members largely due to the elimination of about 2,000 teaching positions statewide,” the executive director said. “OEA has 34,886 members and is the largest professional education association in Oklahoma.”

That 707-member loss for 2009-2010 translates into lost revenue of nearly $300,000 for the union, using an assumption of about $410 per member. (The union raises dues every year or two.)

altThe union’s 2010-2011 dues were $438 according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. An OEA insider said the union will raise the dues figure to $450 for the upcoming school year.

OEA did not respond to repeated requests to clarify or break down the membership number that Odom gave in her statement.

If all 34,886 members she cited were active classroom teachers as CapitolBeatOK requested, that would add up to far more than the $5.98 million in dues income reported on the OEA’s 2009-2010 tax filing.

The union’s federal tax filing for that year shows total income of $8.2 million The other $2.2 million in revenues was attributed to a variety of sources, including program revenue, contributions and grants, other revenue and investment income.

The 2009 tax records came from Guidestar, an online source for tax-exempt organization financial data. The union is classified as a tax exempt, 501 (c) 6  organization. Its EIN is 73-0384310.

altThe Internal Revenue Service downloads its master files for 990 tax-exempt groups to the Guidestar site, IRS spokesman David Stell confirmed.

Other information of note on the Form 990 for the year it lost members showed Odom received $229,768 in salary and “other income,” which was not detailed. The OEA President at the time received $114,229 in total compensation.

In other news, two OEA local affiliates, the Choctaw/Nicoma Park Association of Classroom teachers, and the Allen Association of Classroom teachers, both have lost their tax-exempt status.

Their tax status was revoked when the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently conducted a nationwide cancellation of 275,000 tax-exempt organizations for failure to file annual reports.

The state Department of Education web site shows the Choctaw-Nicoma Park school system had 314 educators, for the 2009-2010 school year, but that does not mean all were OEA members.

Also, the Allen OEA local affiliate lost its tax exempt status. The district employed 34 educators that year, but again, that does not mean all were among the union’s members.

Representatives of the two locals could not be reached for comment.