National Education Association (NEA): Everything You Need to Know

The NEA is the nation’s largest professional employee group and labor union that represents both public school teachers and other support personnel in relevant fields. The association also represents retired educators and college students who hope to transition into a teaching role upon completing their education.

Organizations affiliated with the NEA are present in each state and over 14,000 communities across the nation. They bring the drive, expertise, and dedication of 3 million members and allies to champion excellence and justice in public education. NEA’s 3 million members elect 9,000 delegates. Next, these delegates elect the association’s top officers, decide on issues to debate upon, and set NEA policies and strategic directions to build capacity, create opportunities, and make the environment secure for educators, students, and their families.

The roots of NEA can be traced back to 1857, when the association started its journey as the National Teachers Association. In 1870, it merged with the American Normal School Association and the National Association of School Superintendents to form the NEA.

The organizational structure of the NEA is quite complex. First, it’s an individual membership organization with the general purpose of advancing the cause of public education and its member’s welfare. It also sets up commissions and committees that offer several services, such as publications, research, protection of professional rights, promotion of federal legislation, and liaison with federal-government agencies.

Second, the NEA consists of various national bodies that are based on professional, specialized, and vocational interests. These autonomous organizations have their own staff, officers, and members, and in several cases, even local and state affiliates or branches. An example is the School Superintendents Association that works to ensure equitable access to the highest-quality public education for all students, along with developing and supporting school system leaders.

Third, the NEA can be considered a union of affiliated state and local education associations. The NEA’s representative assembly, which elects its officers and sets its policies, is made of delegates chosen by these affiliated associations that are represented in line with the number of their members belonging to the national body. The rapid growth of NEA members began in 1921 when its representative assembly was created.

Whether someone has been a teacher for just a day or thirty years, they can join the NEA to make their voices heard and noticed in the halls of power. By becoming a member of the NEA, they can improve public school classrooms for themselves and their students.

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