Scam alert: MEA members should beware of fake association con

By Steve Cook, MEA President

It has come to our attention that a right wing, anti-union group has been soliciting MEA members in Livingston County, urging them to disaffiliate from the MEA. The group, Association of American Educators (AAE) offers few services, primarily liability insurance, while providing no representation, collective bargaining assistance or any of the traditional advocacy our members expect and rely upon.

AAE and its state affiliates have been very outspoken in its opposition to unions. Its membership has been in severe decline for a number of years but it has recently ramped up recruiting efforts in states that have adopted restrictions on collective bargaining and so called “Right to Work” laws.

AAE was founded in 1996 by insurance executive, Gary Beckner. Headquartered in California, it has become a family affair, with Beckner hiring his wife as a secretary to the board, and his son to run their web sites.

At its height of influence, in 2008, AAE had 11 chapters covering members in 13 states. By 2011, AAE claimed just seven state “partners.” Teacher groups in Arizona, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Tennessee had all dropped AAE affiliation due to the lack of service provided to members. They also grew tired of being linked publicly—and accurately—to the extreme anti-public education contributors and partners who have underwritten AAE’s work since its inception. AAE is backed by some of the deepest pockets in the anti-public education movement who promote charter schools, cyber schools, vouchers, right to work laws and call for an end to collective bargaining.

The “services” AAE provides according to their materials are: educator liability policies, legal assistance, a “voice” on state issues, professional development, education policy updates and scholarships and grants.

Taking a closer look, the only tangible service they offer is the liability insurance.

Up until 2008, the “legal assistance” they offered their members across the country was one actual attorney on staff: LaRae G. Munk, a former staffer at the Mackinac Center. Today, there is not even one staff attorney, but the group says teachers can use “AAE’s attorney referral network or they may prefer to seek out legal representation of their own.”

Their claim to offer “a voice on state issues” is a stretch, as they only have affiliates in 6 states. And their connection to far right, anti-union groups makes them far from a respected voice on education issues.

“Professional development?” That would be links on their website and information in their monthly newsletter.

“Education Policy Updates?” A monthly newsletter with articles and commentaries form education privatization advocates and anti-labor critics.

Finally, AAE provides small scholarships and grants funded entirely by its right wing donors.

To be blunt, membership in AAE is simply a scam.