The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers lost more than 59,000 working members combined during the 2021-22 school year, according to U.S. Department of Labor disclosure reports.
That decline comes after an 82,000-member loss the previous year.
School district staffing levels were not to blame. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that local schools added 95,000 employees between September 2021 and September 2022. Nor were the membership losses confined to specific areas of the country. Every state affiliate but one that was required to file a disclosure report lost working members.
NEA ended the school year with 2,496,627 working members, down 40,107 from the previous year. The national union is at its lowest membership level since before the 2006 merger between NEA New York and New York State United Teachers.
AFT had 1,189,904 working members in 2021-22, a loss of 19,078. It’s worth noting that only 43.5% of AFT’s total members work full-time.
Five state unions are affiliated with both NEA and AFT. One (North Dakota United) is not required to file a disclosure report. The other four all lost working members.
New York State United Teachers — 411,811 (down 4,384)
Montana Federation of Public Employees — 18,692 (down 1,274)
Education Minnesota — 73,008 (down 732)
Florida Education Association — 129,445 (down 4,682)
Two AFT state affiliates reported unexplained membership totals. For the last six years, AFT New Mexico has reported it has zero members. AFT West Virginia reported this year it has about half the members it had in 2021.
The Ohio Education Association was the lone NEA state affiliate that reported a gain. It added six members. The others affiliates were:
Pennsylvania State Education Association — 137,885 (down 1,458)
Illinois Education Association — 122,167 (down 1,267)
Michigan Education Association — 79,839 (down 1,065)
Maine Education Association — 17,987 (down 324)
Vermont NEA — 11,366 (down 206)
NEA Rhode Island — 9,360 (down 456)
Federal Education Association — 4,617 (down 96)
Most NEA affiliates are not required to file a disclosure report because they are composed solely of public-sector members. But at last look, the California Teachers Association was also suffering significant membership losses. If there are states where teachers unions bucked the trend, the evidence has not been forthcoming.
The bright spot for unions remains the unspent COVID relief funding from federal and state governments. Most of this will go to hire new personnel, giving the unions a greater pool from which to recruit new members. But these anticipated gains may be short-lived, because when the funds expire, the newly hired will be the first to go.
Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears most Wednesdays; see the full archive.