- Membership in NEA/NCAE continues to decline
- Active membership in NCAE is down 32 percent in the last five years
- Numbers suggest NCAE does not represent the majority of public school teachers.
Mike Antonucci, veteran teacher union watcher recently reported that the National Education Association (NEA) lost about 33,000 members last year. Antonucci wrote:
The union reported 2,593,443 members working in the nation’s public schools, with an additional 375,000 retired and student members. The 2019 losses represent a drop of 1.2 percent from 2018. NEA is at about the same membership level as it was in 2014, even though an additional 171,000 local school district employees were hired between 2014 and 2019. All told, 36 NEA affiliates had fewer members in 2019. Thirty are smaller than they were in 2014.
A review of the figures reveals the surprising findings. The Janus ruling – which limited the ability of labor unions to collect fees from non-union members – and the #RedForEd movement have had a mixed impact on NEA membership. States where Janus is relevant saw both gains (Delaware, Hawaii, New York and Rhode Island) and losses in membership (Alaska, Oregon and Vermont).
The #RedForEdMovement seemed to do the same, producing gains in Arizona and Colorado, while in others – Kentucky, Oklahoma, West Virginia and North Carolina – membership declined.
Speaking of North Carolina, NEA leaders have plenty to worry about.
According to Antonucci’s figures, active membership[i] is down 4.4 percent from last year and 32.3 percent in the last five years, the second largest decline among active state affiliates, behind only Nevada.
The number of total NEA members[ii] in North Carolina is down 3.5 percent from last year and 29.7 percent over the past five years, the third largest decline behind Nevada and the District of Columbia.
Each year a few writers report on Antonucci’s figures which provide a snapshot of what is happening with the largest teacher’s association in North Carolina. Those accounts tell important individual stories but often miss the larger picture.
How bad have the last few years been for NCAE?
Table I (above) charts NCAE membership and annual revenue for 2012 through 2019. Total membership is down 44 percent, active membership declined by 51 percent. Not surprisingly, being a membership organization, revenue also declined 50 percent between 2012 and 2018 (latest year data is available).
These have not been good years for NCAE. According to its mission statement, NCAE continues to be “the voice of educators in North Carolina. . .”
NCAE is reporting 17,580 “active” members. Active is defined as “employed teachers, professional and education support employees.” We have no idea what percentage of active members teachers make up. We do know it is somewhere between 0 and 100. Let us assume for the sake of argument 95 percent of active members are teachers. That would mean 16,701 current teachers are members of NCAE. According to the Highlights of North Carolina Public School Budget, in 2019, North Carolina had 93,411 full-time teachers.
That would mean 18 percent of all teachers in North Carolina are members of NCAE.
Considering the organization held large teacher rallies in 2011, 2018 and 2019, the trendlines must be disappointing. The 2019 teacher rally was also billed as a “Day of Action” aimed to mobilize people to work toward NCAE goals. The rallies in recent years had thousands of participants but still failed to produce an uptick in membership.
Despite the activities, events and effort, teachers continue to leave the NCAE. That said, making the case to be the “voice of educators in North Carolina” is difficult when NCAE potentially represents fewer than 1 in 5 active teachers.
Why do teachers continue to leave NCAE? That is an important question. Even more important is the question: Why is no one asking?
[i] “Active” members are employed teachers, professionals and education support employees.
[ii] “Total” membership includes retirees, students, substitutes and all others