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