Tennessee Education Association Lost 44 Percent of Members in Past Decade, Expert Says


The Tennessee Education Association has lost 44 percent of its members in the last decade.

Mike Antonucci issued that statistic in the Union Report on The 74 Million, a non-partisan education news site. He analyzed state education association membership totals between the 2008-09 and 2016-17 school years.

The biggest losers were Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Antonucci attributes this trend to right-to-work laws more so than the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus ruling in 2018, which banned the practice of public-sector unions charging representation fees to nonmembers. Each of those states were right-to-work during his study years or became right-to-work.

TEA’s numbers were 46,829 in 2008-09 and 26,275 in 2017-18, Antonucci said.

JC Bowman, executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, said that those numbers are self-reported. Furthermore, he said he attributes the membership loss to TEA focusing on politics.

“For me, it goes to show that when you get into things not educational, you’re going to alienate your members,” Bowman said. “Modern associations must focus on the core business of teacher protection, professional development, member benefits, and they must do so at an affordable price. While staying focused on education issues, and away from partisan politics and social issues not related to public education.”

The Tennessee Education Association spent more than $500,000 between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2018 on political activities, according to its filings with the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, most of which went to candidates for state offices, The Tennessee Star reported in February.

TEA’s IRS Form 990 filings from 2014 to 2016 show the majority of funding comes from membership dues, but as dues decline in relation to membership, grants from the parent NEA organization have increased.

In 2014, TEA’s membership dues as a percent of total revenue was 90 percent, with 9 percent coming from NEA. By 2016, just 82 percent of TEAs revenue came from membership dues, while NEA’s contributions increased to 14 percent.

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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.
Photos by Tennessee Education Association.




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