With its 2.2 million members, the National Education Association is by far the most dominant teachers’ union in the nation, dwarfing the American Federation of Teachers with its own 900,000 members. Another 300,000 teachers in 20 states, however, belong to neither union but instead are members of growing local teacher associations that offer an alternative to the NEA and the AFT.
The independent associations in Georgia, Texas, and Missouri have grown larger than the union affiliate. For example, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators boasts a membership of 41,000 versus 32,438 in the Georgia NEA affiliate. At the national level, membership in the three-year-old Association of American Educators already has grown to over 6,000 educators.
The Association of American Educators was formed, says executive director Gary Beckner, “to give independent teachers all across the U.S. a chance to have their voice heard at the national level and to make it understood that the big labor unions don’t speak for all teachers.”
The alternative associations provide insurance and legal protection for teachers at one-third to one-quarter of the cost of belonging to a union. None of the dues is used for political action committees.