Senator asks state to halt payroll deductions for educators group
Posted December 11, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, has asked the Office of State Controller to stop deducting dues from members of the North Carolina Association of Educators, a teacher advocacy group that has tangled with lawmakers over salary and education policy.
Hise's request was sparked by an audit report released Friday. According to state auditors, NCAE refused to provide its total membership numbers or other information for the report. State law requires that statewide employee organizations have at least 40,000 members in order to be eligible for payroll deductions.
"Therefore, I request that your office cease such deductions unless and until the State Auditor completes the required verification," Hise wrote in a letter dated Dec. 2, after he received an advance copy of the audit. "I can see no alternative to ensure that the State Auditor has access to the data she requires to see to it that the law is followed."
Payroll deductions allow employee groups to collect dues automatically rather than require members to write monthly checks.
Hise has long been an opponent.
"I don't think it's a proper use of state resources for us to be collecting money on behalf of a private organization," he said.
Hise added that lawmakers have suspected for a while that NCAE lacked the requisite number of members. Now, with its failure to cooperate with the Auditor's Office, he said both the state and local school districts should stop collecting dues.
"There is no longer the legal authorization for them to collect," he said.
Claire Ennis, employee relations coordinator with the Office of State Controller, said her office had just received the audit report Friday. Officials, she said, plan to review the report and meet on Monday to take whatever action is required by law.
A spokesman for the NCAE didn't immediately return phone calls or respond to an email. The group says on its website that it has 70,000 members.
According to the audit report, 9,452 individuals whose payroll or retirement checks are processed by the state automatically pay dues to NCAE. This doesn't account for the organization's total membership.
Auditors say that the another teacher advocacy group representing members in Chapel Hill and Carborro, also failed to turn over its membership numbers.
This isn't the first time dues collection has been at the center of a tussle between the NCAE and lawmakers.
In 2012, the state House held an unprecedented midnight session to override Gov. Bev Perdue's veto of a bill that would have stopped the state from collecting NCAE dues . The group went to court and won, keeping the right over lawmakers' objections. Members of the General Assembly, including Hise, filed a bill to kill payroll deductions for all employee groups, but that measure did not pass this year.