The National Education Association (NEA) is the largest professional organization and largest labor union in the United States, representing public school teachers and other support personnel, faculty and staffers at colleges and universities, retired educators, and college students preparing to become teachers. The NEA has 3.2 million members and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. With affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the nation, it employs over 550 staff and had a budget of more than $307 million for the 2006–2007 fiscal year. Lily Eskelsen García is the NEA’s current president. NEA, which describes itself as a professional employee organization, is incorporated as a professional association in a few states and as a labor union in most. The group holds a congressional charter under Title 36 of the United States Code. It is not a member of the AFL–CIO, but is part of Education International, the global federation of teachers’ unions. The NEA is a factor in modern liberalism, and typically supports the Democratic Party. Conservatives, libertarians, parents’ rights groups, and others criticize it for opposing types of education reform designed to increase educational choice. The stated mission of the NEA is “to advocate for education professionals and to unite our members and the nation to fulfill the promise of public education to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world,” as well as concerning itself with the wage and working condition issues common to other labor unions. The NEA is a volunteer-based organization that relies upon its members to perform much of the group’s work. In turn, the members are supported by a network of staff at the local, state, and national levels. The stated goal of NEA’s work is encapsulated in its vision: “building great public schools for every student.” At the local level, affiliates perform a variety of activities (as determined by the local members), which may range from raising funds for scholarship programs to conducting professional workshops on issues that affect faculty and school support staff to bargaining contracts for school district employees. The activities of NEA state affiliates are equally wide-ranging. State affiliates regularly lobby state legislators for funding and other resources; they seek to influence education policy; they campaign for higher professional standards for educators and support professionals; and, they file legal actions to protect academic freedom and the rights of school employees. The extent to which the NEA and its state and local affiliates engage in political activities, especially during election cycles has, however, been a source of controversy. From 1989 to 2010 the NEA has spent approximately 36 million dollars on lobbying efforts according to the Center for Responsive Politics. At the national level, the NEA lobbies the United States Congress and federal agencies on behalf of its members and public schools, works with other education organizations and friends of public education, provides training and assistance to its affiliates, and generally conducts activities consistent with the policies set by its elected governing bodies.
National Educational Association
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