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Teacher Unions and Education Policy: Retrenchment of Reform?

ISBN: 978-0-76230-828-6, eISBN: 978-1-84950-126-2

ISSN: 1479-358X

Publication date: 16 December 2004


Evaluating the political influence of a teachers’ union is, necessarily, a somewhat subjective task. It appears to me that the teacher unions’ power, as measured by their membership strength, has remained healthy and in fact increased slightly since 1988. The most recent public figures for the NEA and the AFT indicate that the two organizations are collectively nearing four million members – counting the NEA’s membership of 2.7 million and the AFT’s just over one million (Newman, 2000). As a measure of the unions’ ability to mobilize teachers, however, those numbers may overstate the case for power. In the AFT, approximately half of its membership now comes from teacher aides and other non-teaching personnel such as school bus drivers (Keller, 2002). Even so, the number of teachers who are members of the NEA and AFT is considerable, and any explanation of a diminished political influence on the part of those unions must deal with the issue of their large memberships.


Urban, W.J. (2004), "5. TEACHER POLITICS", Henderson, R.D., Urban, W. and Wolman, P. (Ed.) Teacher Unions and Education Policy: Retrenchment of Reform? (Advances in Education in Diverse Communities, Vol. 3), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 103-123.



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