The NEA Pyramid - The View Changes as You Rise to the Top of the Nation's Largest Union

Michael O'Keefe

Education Intelligence Agency
October 3, 2005

The NEA's passion for liberal causes is well-documented, but how representative are that union's higher ups of those they're elected to represent? Two recent surveys - one of NEA members, filed with the association in July, and one of NEA's local affiliation presidents, filed in August - provide some insight. A surprising 61 percent of NEA members who participated in the annual survey placed their political affiliations with the right. Compare this with the survey of NEA local affiliate presidents, who were grouped into one of five categories based upon the size of their membership (tiny, less than 50; small, 50-149; medium, 150-499; large, 500-999; and jumbo, over 1,000).  Forty-nine percent of local presidents leading tiny shops consider themselves liberal. As the size of the membership increases, so, too, does the percentage of presidents who self-identify as liberal. Sixty-three percent of presidents of medium-sized locals say they're liberal, while a whopping 82 percent of those who lead "jumbo" locals claim that designation. So how is it that a union membership that leans right gets presidents who lean left? Most likely, member inaction - and activist action. Thirty-six percent of surveyed NEA members admit that they are "not at all" involved at the local, state, or national level. Perhaps this creates an opportunity for reform-minded teacher organizations? You can read an analysis of the surveys here.

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