by Dr. Robert Luebke
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Think back to 2018 and 2019. Teachers’ unions are coming off successful strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky and are wanting to nationalize their protests and walkouts to dramatize the plight of public education and strengthen the union movement. The campaign, spearheaded by the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions; the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), was called #RedforED. The catchy name was a tip of the cap to NEA’s request to have teachers and supporters of public education wear red at events and school protests. Coming on the heels of the Janus decision many unions feared would lead to the demise of teachers unions, #RedforED was meant to help revitalize the teachers’ unions and make them relevant again.
Did #RedforED work?
Last week our friend, Mike Antonucci, at the education website The 74 million posted an interesting article to help answer that question.
Antonucci listed membership and total revenue numbers for NEA and NEA state affiliates for the years 2017-18 and 2018-19. Taken together they could help to assess the impact #RedforEd had on membership and finances.
What did he find?
Nationally, total membership in NEA dropped 1 percent, to 2,968,586. Regarding finances, even though dues in most states still increased, total revenue still declined 1.7 percent to $377,146,115.
The story in North Carolina was mixed. Membership in NCAE declined 3.5 percent from the previous year. Meanwhile – mostly because of increases in membership dues – NCAE revenue increased 1.9 percent to $5,833,474, despite a significant decline in membership.
What does it all mean?
The NEA certainly hoped #RedforEd would revitalize the movement, boost membership, and stem the expected losses from the Janus ruling. Despite all the efforts of #RedforED on the state and national level, NEA membership still declined.
It means two huge NCAE rallies in Raleigh with thousands of attendees and supporters produced no real gains in membership. The steady decline in NCAE membership only continued.
That’s a story the media has avoided for years — and it’s getting much more difficult to do.