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Timeline of the National Education Association (NEA)


In Philadelphia, one hundred educators meet to form a national body. Its mission is “to elevate the character and advance the interest of the profession of teaching, and to promote the cause of popular education in the United States.” It is named the National Teachers Association (NTA).


Women are formally admitted to full membership in the NTA, after full participation from the beginning.


The NTA is renamed the National Education Association.


NEA is incorporated in Washington, D.C.


Booker T. Washington addresses the NEA convention. He speaks of the economic and social progress made in those states that invested the most in higher education.


National Association of Colored Teachers is formed; it will be renamed twice, and in 1966 will merge with the NEA as the American Teachers Association.


NEA is chartered by an Act of Congress.


Ella Flagg Young is elected NEA president. She is the first woman to hold this office. The NEA will shortly endorse women’s suffrage and pass a resolution supporting equal pay for equal work and “political equality of the sexes.”


NEA headquarters moves permanently to Washington, D.C.


The first American Education Week is held with the NEA and American Legion as the cosponsors.


NEA focuses its energies on racial equality of educational opportunities. Working jointly with the National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools, NEA struggles to improve conditions for the ten million African-American children in the South – who are served by only 166 accredited schools.


During the Depression, the NEA fights to preserve school budgets while teachers organize food programs for hungry children.


NEA President Donald DuShane creates the National Commission for the Defense of Democracy Through Education. The Defense Commission promotes public awareness of educational issues and defends teachers whose rights are violated.


NEA Defense Commission funds legal costs to support Oklahoma teacher Kate Frank’s battle after she is fired for activism on behalf of teachers‘ rights. She is reinstated after a successful three-year struggle, at which time the NEA initiates the DuShane Fund for Teacher Rights. It will later be renamed the Kate Frank/DuShane Fund.


NEA helps formulate plans for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNESCO will become the preeminent international sponsor of educational activities. NEA obtains an amendment to the Hatch Act – a law that bans public employees from political activity – freeing teachers and the NEA to participate in public affairs.


The World Confederation of Organizations of the Teaching Profession is founded with NEA assistance. This international body of educators works to improve the quality of education worldwide.


In an epochal decision, Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court rules that the prevailing policy of “separate but equal” educational programs is unconstitutional. This ruling begins a process toward racial desegregation in the United States.


NEA celebrates its centennial. There are over 2,000 NEA “birthday parties” across the country. In Washington, D.C., President Eisenhower cuts the cake.


The first NEA-sponsored TV series, “The School Story,” airs on more than 200 stations. This is followed a year later by “Meet the Professor” and a series of public service spots called “Parents Ask About School.”


NEA Reporter begins publication. In 1982 it is renamed NEA Today.


President Lyndon Johnson is named Honorary Life Member and signs into law the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, providing $1.2 billion for public schools. An NEA-produced film, “Children Without,” is nominated for an Academy Award.


The American Teachers Association, representing educators in African-American schools in segregated states, merges with the NEA.


Braulio Alonso is NEA’s first Hispanic president. NEA begins a drive for multicultural instruction and improved textbook representation of minorities. In Florida, following NEA sanctions, 58,000 educators threaten to resign en masse if conditions in school are not improved. The legislature votes a 71% increase in educational funding. NEA now has one million members.


Elizabeth Duncan Koontz becomes the first African-American president of NEA. NEA creates the National Foundation for the Improvement of Education. In its first ten years of operation, it will attract $3.5 million in grants to support educational research. After three years of NEA lobbying, Congress passes the Bilingual Education Act.


NEA forms NEA-PAC, a political action committee which allows the NEA to influence the national legislative agenda, shape electoral platforms, and lend support to candidates with positions favorable to public education. Funded by member contributions, it will become one of the nation’s largest and most influential PACs.


NEA wins US Supreme Court case striking down mandatory maternity leave for pregnant teachers.


Following years of intense lobbying efforts, the United States Department of Education is elevated to full cabinet status.


Educational Support Personnel are voted full membership rights.


After years of intense NEA lobbying, the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., becomes a federal holiday.


NEA embraces the Nine Principles of Education as part of the “Action Plan for Educational Excellence.”


NEA member Christa McAuliffe loses her life in the explosion of space shuttle Challenger.


NEA membership reaches over 2 million.


NEA dedicates its new headquarters in Washington, D.C. The redesigned offices promise to help NEA staff and officers work efficiently and effectively into the next century.


NEA creates Read Across America – a national program encouraging adults to take an active role in reading to youngsters on a regular basis. Iona Holloway becomes the first Education Support Professional elected to the NEA Executive Committee.


Congress passes the No Child Left Behind Act – a reauthorization of 1965’s ESEA.


NEA membership surpasses 3 million. NEA adopts vision of a great public school for every student.


NEA 150th Anniversary

National Education Association Archive Staff