Commentary on the NEA’s membership and influence

Mike Antonucci:

Everything was rosy for the National Education Association during the 2008-09 school year. Barack Obama was elected president, and the union reached an all-time high of 3,234,639 members.

But it has been a long, slow slide since then, as NEA membership has not recovered from the lasting effects of the recession, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus ruling and, now, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Numbers from early 2021 show a decline to 2,937,366 members, including retirees. That’s more than a 9 percent decline. Some state affiliates have lost a fifth or more of their members over the past five years. Though NEA still claims 3 million members, it hasn’t hit that figure at any time since 2011-12. Membership levels haven’t been this low since 2006.

But the evidence so far indicates that dwindling membership has had a negligible effect on the union’s overall finances. NEA and its state affiliates still take in almost $1.7 billion annually, as increases in dues tend to offset the loss of members.