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Interesting Find in the Collection: Transition in the NEA

Despite being an organization created by teachers, for its first century control of the National Education Association was firmly in the hands of administrators. A revolution began in local affiliates in the 1960s against the low wages, lack of job security and paternalism exercised by school boards and superintendents.  During the 1971 Constitutional Convention in Colorado these changes spread to the NEA itself. At Con-Con, as it was called, four major changes were proposed.  Most significant of these were a change to the membership rules and a change to the voting rules. Now individual states could decide if they wanted to limit membership to teachers alone at the expense of administrators. Elections of NEA officers would now be done by secret ballot to avoid intimidation. Although the new constitution was not ratified, it set the stage for changes that were adopted at the 1973 Representative Assembly.

As former NEA Executive Director Don Cameron puts it in his book The Inside Story of the Teacher Revolution in America, the NEA changed “in the blink of an eye” between 1965 and 1975. From a genteel professional association, it became an organization that embraced collective bargaining and confrontation to improve the status of educators.

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