During the last fiscal year, the American Federation of Teachers spent more than $27 million on highly politicized causes. The National Education Association spent even more than that during the mid-term elections this year alone. As Politico recently reported:

The National Education Association is still tallying its campaign spending but it’s safe to say the union didn’t come close to the $60 million figure that officials floated as an upper limit. The union estimates its expenditures on the midterms at $34 million to $40 million. About a third of that went to support field efforts in battleground states nationwide.

But union watchdog Mike Antonucci raises a couple of important points to keep in mind about those spending estimates:

As I’ve explained to quite a few people through e-mail and over the phone, this means nothing and the original estimate meant nothing, because we don’t know what NEA categorizes as “campaign spending.” We don’t know what the affiliates spent. We don’t know how much was spent on “member communications” and “community outreach.” We don’t know how much money contributed by the union to like-minded advocacy groups ended up as campaign spending, etc. [See here for more by Antonucci.]

What’s more, Antonucci adds, teachers unions have powerful incentives to inflate how much money they have to pour into their preferred political campaigns and causes pre-election. Post-election, however, Antonucci says:

 In the wake of dramatic losses across the board, [the NEA’s] motivation is to minimize the amount it spent.

Individuals should be free to contribute to political causes and candidates they prefer out of their own hard-earned money. Yet no one should be forced to cough up pricey union dues then be kept in the dark about where all the money’s going.