The National Education Association (NEA) was formed in 1857 when 100 educators decided to organize and create an organization in the name of public education. It was originally called the National Teachers Association. At that time there were several professional education associations, but they were only on the state level. A call was issued to unite together to have one voice dedicated towards the growing public school system in America. During that time education wasn’t an important facet of everyday life in America.
Over the next 150 years the importance of education and professional teaching has transformed at an astounding rate. It is no coincidence that the NEA has been at the forefront of that transformation. Some historic developments of the NEA throughout history has included welcoming Black members four years before the Civil War, electing a woman as president before women even had the right to vote, and merging with the American Teachers Association in 1966. The NEA was birthed to fight for the rights of both children and educators and continue to do so today.Membership
The original membership of NEA was 100 members. Today the NEA has grown into the largest professional organization and largest labor union in the United States. They boast 3.2 million members and include public school educators, support members, faculty & staff members at the university level, retired educators, administrators, and college students becoming teachers. The NEA head quarters are located in Washington D.C. Each state has an affiliate member in more than 14,000 communities across the nation and has a budget of over $300 million per year.Mission
The stated mission of the National Education Association is "to advocate for education professionals and to unite our members and the nation to fulfill the promise of public education to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world." The NEA also is concerned with wage and working conditions common to other labor unions. The NEA’s vision is, “building great public schools for every student.”
The NEA relies on its members to perform much of their work and in return by a strong local, state, and national network. NEA at the local level raise funds for scholarships, conduct professional development workshops, bargains contracts for school employees. At the state level, they lobby legislators for funding, seek to influence legislation, and campaign for higher standards. They also file legal action on behalf of teachers to protect their rights. The NEA at the national level lobbies Congress and federal agencies on behalf of its members. They also work with other education organizations, provide training and assistance, and conduct activities conducive to their policies.Important Issues
There are several issues that are continuously important to the NEA. Those include reforming No Child left Behind (NCLB) and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). They also push to increase education funding and discourage merit pay. The NEA conducts events to support minority community outreach and dropout prevention. They look into ways to lower the achievement gap. They push for reforming laws concerning charter schools and discourage school vouchers. They believe that public education is the gateway to opportunity. The NEA believes that all students have the right to a quality public education regardless of family income or place of residence.
Criticism & Controversy
One of the major criticisms is that the NEA often puts the interests of teachers in front of the needs of the students which they teach. Opponents claim that the NEA does not support initiatives which will harm union interests, but would help students. Other critics have been vocal because of the lack of support from the NEA towards policies dealing with voucher programs, merit pay, and the removal of “bad” teachers. The NEA has also been recently criticized because of their goal to change public perception of homosexuality. Like any large organization there have been internal scandals within the NEA including embezzlement, misspending, and political incorrectness.