In a single recent 12-month period, the state’s largest teachers’ union spent $150 million on itself, according to a new study by the Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability.

FERA understandably found it hard to resist linking the “lavish” spending habits of New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) with the union’s perennial demand for more state education spending.

The study, focused on NYSUT spending between September 2005 and August 2004, noted that unions funds had paid for “items ranging from retreats at luxury resorts to a multi-million dollar fleet of automobiles.”

NYSUT conference spending totaled $4.2 million for the period. According to the study, itemized expenditures included:

* $501,307 at Cooperstown’s four-diamond Otesaga Resort Hotel,
* $334,608 at Montauk’s Gurney’s Inn Resort,
* $189,520 at out-of-state, Princeton, New Jersey’s Doral Forrestal Conference Center, and
* $136,545 at out-of-country, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario’s four-diamond Queens Landing Inn.

FERA also reported expenditures of $195,362 for “photography” and $45,000 to New York City’s Group Box Office Sales for “entertainment” to $8,094 for “dry cleaning.”

FERA’s study also noted that the union’s new suburban Albany, state-of-the art headquarters and conference center is 218,000 square feet–“more than five times the size of an average neighborhood Wal-Mart.”

NYSUT’s spending was sufficient to finance the hiring of 4,100 new teachers, FERA’s Jason Brooks noted.

According to figure provided by the Office of the State Comptroller, NYSUT’s $150 million expenditure is roughly equivalent to total expenditures for the City of Albany for the year 2003.

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Tim Hoefer

Tim Hoefer is president & CEO of the Empire Center for Public Policy.

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