DC Teachers Over-Charged more than $700K

Nearly 5,000 Washington, D.C. teachers were charged nine times their regular dues this summer. That discovery in Oct. has led to the resignations of several local officials and an investigation by the the U.S. Attny in D.C. But as reports of other financial improprieties have arisen from an audit by the Amer. Fedn. of Teachers (AFT), questions have also arisen as to why the AFT did nothing for five years after the Wash. Teachers Union (WTU) failed to submit a local audit as required under AFT rules.

After WTU president Barbara Bullock resigned, interim president Esther Hankerson urged members, in an Oct. 28 letter, not to talk to news media about the union’s financial problems but to direct inquiries to her. But Hankerson has not returned more than a dozen phone calls by local reporters, and a person who answered Hankerson’s cell phone claimed the reporter had the wrong number.

The dues over-charge came after the union gained a new contract containing a retroactive pay raise. Local officials assessed each teacher a retroactive dues increase of $16. But when the dues were deducted from teachers’ paychecks, $160 was taken. WTU officials admit that between 5,000 and 5,500 people were hit with the excessive deduction, adding up to a windfall for the union of $720,000 to $792,000. Teachers then complained to the AFT, which is supposed to receive an audit from its local affiliates every two years. The last WTU audit was in 1995. Spurred by the teachers’ complaints, the AFT Exec. Bd. began an investigation that led to its asking for the resignations of Bullock, Treasurer James Baxter, and Bullock’s chief asst. Gwen Hemphill. It is unclear if Baxter and Hemphill have resigned.

Meanwhile, only a third of the teachers have been reimbursed so far, and several teachers complain that the union has applied the over-charge to future dues payments, rather than repaying it outright. [Washington Post 11/23, 2002]