Teaching Profession

Alternative Teachers’ Groups Highlighted

By Jeanne Ponessa — February 12, 1997 3 min read

Washington

While NEA President Bob Chase unveiled his new union agenda at the National Press Club here last week, some little-known alternative teachers’ groups had their own high-profile platform on Capitol Hill.

Representatives from the independent groups spoke at a conference titled “Education Reforms--Despite the NEA and the AFT,” sponsored by the Arlington, Va.-based Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, a conservative think tank.

Held in a House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing room, the conference provided a forum for teachers’ union opponents who criticize the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers for their collective political muscle, opposition to voucher programs, and limited endorsement of charter schools. Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., the chairman of the education panel’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, gave the opening remarks.

The conference threw a national spotlight on the low-profile, but apparently growing, population of teachers who have declined membership in the country’s two major teachers’ unions and have instead joined local teacher associations. According to the de Tocqueville Institution, about 300,000 teachers belong to such organizations in 20 states.

Gary Beckner, the president of the Mission Viejo, Calif.-based Association of American Educators, told participants that independent associations like his 6,200-member group are “one of the best-kept secrets in America.” But the “potential universe” of teachers in such independent groups, Mr. Beckner said, could someday be as high as 1.5 million teachers.

By contrast, the NEA represents 2.2 million teachers, while the AFT has a membership of 900,000.

“We’re not anti-union,” Mr. Beckner asserted. “We just think unions should stick to what they do best, which is negotiating better wages for those who want to join them.”

Offering Options

The mission of the AAE, according to its literature, is to “encourage and empower teachers who embrace similar views on education.” Membership fees in the AAE are $99 a year, compared with an average of $200 to $300 a year for the mainstream unions. That $99 covers liability insurance for teachers, and no part of the dues are used for political action committees, Mr. Beckner said.

Tim Callahan, a spokesman for the Clarkston, Ga.-based Professional Association of Georgia Educators, another independent association, told conference attendees that his group provides an alternative to the major unions in that it does not attempt to stake out social-policy positions. “I sleep well at night knowing I’m never going to have to answer, ‘What’s the PAGE position on abortion?’ ‘What’s the PAGE position on gun control?’” he said.

PAGE, which counts its members at 41,000, claims to have surpassed the membership of Georgia’s NEA affiliate, which has 32,438 members. The NEA’s controversial stands on issues such as Lesbian and Gay History Month have boosted support for groups like PAGE, said Mr. Callahan, who called the national union “our best recruiters.” (“NEA Backing for Gay Month Sparks Firestorm,” Oct. 25, 1995.)

Bigger Aspirations?

But the speakers acknowledged the contradiction that independent teachers’ associations face as they seek to recruit new members: If they become too large, they run the risk of turning into massive institutions like the ones they claim they are helping teachers avoid.

Mr. Beckner pointed out that some independent associations in larger states have written into their bylaws a resolution not to affiliate with any national group. His task, as he sees it, is to persuade such groups that “it would be good to have a national hub.”

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators generally avoids national issues, and its leaders are mindful that most action on education issues ultimately takes place at the state level, Mr. Callahan said.

Related Tags:

Events

Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Engaging Young Students to Accelerate Math Learning
Join learning scientists and inspiring district leaders, for a timely panel discussion addressing a school district’s approach to doubling and tripling Math gains during Covid. What started as a goal to address learning gaps in
Content provided by Age of Learning & Digital Promise, Harlingen CISD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession New York City Will End Controversial Absent Teacher Pool
Education department officials there announced that they will place hundreds of sidelined teachers in permanent teaching positions starting next year.
Michael Elsen-Rooney, New York Daily News
4 min read
Image of a teacher in a classroom full of kids.
Getty
Teaching Profession Teachers Walk Off the Job at Chicago’s Urban Prep
With just two weeks left to the school year, teachers went on strike over what they say is a lack of support for special education students.
Karen Ann Cullotta, Chicago Tribune
3 min read
Images shows hand drawn group of protestors.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Teaching Profession Opinion Compassion Fatigue Is Overwhelming Educators During the Pandemic
Educators need acknowledgment and healing while dealing with their own and others' grief. Here’s what administrators can do to help.
Shayla Ewing
5 min read
Illustration of empty shirt and cloud
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Teaching Profession Is It Time to Relax Teacher Dress Codes?
After teaching at home in comfortable clothes, some school and district leaders support casual attire for teachers returning to classrooms.
4 min read
Illustration of clothes on hangers
Getty