Teaching Profession

Understanding NEA’s Current Membership Numbers

By Stephen Sawchuk — July 04, 2013 1 min read


One question I’m often asked is how many members the National Education Association has. Our current boilerplate at Education Week, for instance, is to write that the NEA has 3 million members.

Is that still the case?

Let’s take a look at NEA’s financial records to see how they characterize all of this stuff. According to the union’s 2013-14 modified strategic plan and budget, the union counts 2.4 million members in all. So what gives?

Well, for one, the numbers are stated in full-time equivalents, not actual live individuals, so they’re lower than they would be if they counted each part-time teacher.

That still leaves us several thousand short of 3 million, though. Part of the disparity has to do with state affiliates that have merged, particularly in New York. NYSUT has grown in size since its 2006 merger, but a majority of its dues dollars still go to AFT, not NEA, and so NEA’s financial report counts only the dues-generating members.

Add in the roughly 600,000 NYSUT members, and we’re closer to 3 million. But according to the union’s budget statement, NEA counts its 36,000 agency-fee payers in its membership list. While such individuals generate revenue for the union, they are by definition not members. Take those out, and we’re slightly below 3 million.

There used to be an easier way of getting at this number: NEA for years produced state-by-state affiliate numbers in the NEA handbook that were NOT expressed in FTE figures. But it doesn’t seem to publish them anymore.

However, eagle-eyed union-watcher Mike Antonucci says that Secretary Treasurer Becky Pringle did produce some aggregate, non-FTE figures during her report to the RA last night. He writes: “NEA’s official count is 2,633,144 active members ... a decline of 9.4 percent in four years. The total membership is at 2,983,787.”

Between these two calculations, we can safely say that NEA probably has just short of 3 million members, the great majority of whom are active, dues-paying members. The remaining members are made up of retirees, students, and a small proportion of folks who hold “lifetime” memberships when they were offered in the ‘70s.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.