LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – The Michigan Education Association is bleeding membership among both teachers and staff but the union says it can’t determine how much of that is related to the state’s Right to Work law.

The union was at one time one of the most powerful in the state.

Political insiders in this town once considered the Michigan Education Association to be one of the 800-pound gorillas on the political scene.

That is not the case any more and the numbers tell the story.

In 2005 there were 92,000 teachers in the classroom.

In 2012 there were 84,000, in 2016 there were 68,900, a loss of over 24,000 teachers.

And there’s been a 35 percent drop in support personnel who were in the union.

There are 70,000 fewer kids in the classroom and the new MEA president points to other factors regarding the loss of teachers.

“We are seeing huge teacher shortages with fewer students going into the profession,” explained MEA president Paula Herbart. “A 40 percent drop. We are seeing retired teachers not being replaced for lack of money and our support staff are being privatized.”

During the first year after the legislature passed the Right to Work law that unions opposed, the MEA reports it lost 1,000 members but now, the union president reports she does not know what the number is.

“We don’t really know about it that way,” Herbart explains.

She went on to add that she did not have the proof at that time that there is any linkage between the passing of the Right to Work legislation and the decline in membership.

Years ago the MEA was a powerful force in the political arena but with fewer teachers the Mackinaw Center reports the union has lost $17 million in union dues.

“We’ve had a tough time as unions have had some challenges recently,” Herbart admits. “But our members are engaged.”