I was asked recently what I think about unions. More specifically, I was asked in an area forum I attended for my thoughts on the National Education Association (NEA) and its affiliates. Unfortunately, I was not able to articulate my thoughts as fully as I would have liked in the couple of moments I had on the subject.
The NEA is the single largest organized labor union in the United States with about 2.7 million members comprised from its affiliates. The NEA has adopted a very left-leaning agenda in the past several decades. What some may not realize though is that, when a teacher joins the local-level education association to collaborate with their friends/colleagues, dues are automatically collected for the NEA.
Does this mean our local educators subscribe to the agenda and initiatives of the NEA? Certainly not. Joining the NEA is not an opt-in scenario for teachers, when they join the local association. Their names are automatically added to the rolls of the NEA, like it or not, since the local association is an affiliate of the other.
We live in the heart of East Tennessee, a predominantly conservative region of the state and, primarily, Republican by voting history. In no way should the actions of the national or state-level associations be an indictment of our local educators. The 17th district is overwhelmingly rural. The dynamics of rural counties, compared to the heavily urban school districts/counties that comprise the bulk of the NEA's rolls is much different, because our teachers are much different. The same traditionalist friends and neighbors we have working in the classrooms to move our children forward academically here in the heart of East Tennessee are not the same as teachers in Memphis/Shelby County, Metro-Davidson County or other heavily urban districts throughout the U.S. So, trying to compare our teachers to them is, simply put, like trying to compare apples to oranges.
Our teachers here on the local level are in the classroom to teach our children. The higher ups in the NEA, like any other union, are there to advance the organization. While I cannot condone the NEA's extreme, left-leaning political activism, I fully support our local educators in their hard work and efforts to prepare our children for their post-secondary pursuits in college and the workforce.