NEA Membership Grew, Or Did It?

June 22, 2017

NEA Membership Grew, Or Did It? The National Education Association had 2,963,540 members in 2016, of whom 87.5 percent were working in the public school system. This was an increase of 0.5 percent from 2015 and the first increase in total membership since 2009.

This is good news for the union after such a long drought and will be celebrated at the annual NEA Representative Assembly in Boston early next month. A closer look at the state-by-state figures reveals NEA isn’t out of the woods, however, and may soon find itself divided between the haves and have-nots.

I have compiled the numbers in a handy table, which provides both the total and active membership for each state affiliate. Active members are employed teachers, professionals, and education support workers. Total membership includes retirees, students, substitutes, and all others. Along with the numbers are the one-year and five-year changes in those figures.

Click here for a Adobe Acrobat (PDF) version.

The raw numbers show that NEA had an increase of almost 16,000 members, but more than 4,000 of those were retirees, who pay the national union $30 a year. Certainly they are welcome additions, loyal to the organization after their working days have ended, but they are still folks who were formerly paying $187 a year as active members.

And there’s a small problem about the 11,862 new active members. A look at the state figures shows that by itself New York State United Teachers accounted for 15,584 new active members. That means all the NEA’s other affiliates produced a net loss of more than 3,700 members.

This is significant because NYSUT is by no means a normal NEA state affiliate. The 400,000-member New York state teachers group is primarily affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. In 2006, NYSUT merged with — absorbed might be a better word — a struggling NEA New York, which had fewer than 41,000 members at the time. NYSUT members have reduced voting and representation rights at NEA, and do not pay a full complement of NEA national dues.

NEA does have a powerhouse affiliate of its own — the California Teachers Association. CTA boosted its active member numbers by almost 9,000. NEA’s other affiliates on the Pacific Coast also had good years. The Washington Education Association and the Oregon Education Association increased their active member numbers by almost 3,000 each.

It’s difficult to find happy news for NEA elsewhere in the nation. State affiliates in Arkansas, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin all lost more than 5 percent of their active members in a single year. Affiliates in Kansas, Nevada, South Carolina, and the Utah School Employees Association also had a miserable year.

All told, 27 NEA state affiliates lost active members.

I reported last month that NEA is budgeting for a loss of 20,000 members in 2017-18. If the case of Janus v. AFSCME challenging agency fees goes to the U.S. Supreme Court and is decided against the unions, 2016 might end up being NEA’s last high-water mark.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics June 16-21:

*  Union Shuts Down the Type of Charter It Claims to Support. The fault line beneath common ground.

*  It Was 20 Years Ago Today. The birth of EIA.

*  NEA’s PR Machine. If you don’t like your press coverage, try to buy some.

*  Better Late Than Never. The tardy appearance of the South Carolina Education Association’s financial data.

Quote of the Week. “We want a better-trained and well-informed workforce. It really wasn’t about the unions so much as it was just an orientation.” – California Assemblyman Jim Cooper, commenting on a new state law that grants unions mandatory access to new employee orientation sessions in schools, cities and in state government. (June 14 Sacramento Bee)