Teachers Unions

Teacher Membership in Unions Drops Below 50 Percent

Will they be joining other unions in membership decline?


At Education Intelligence Agency, a site devoted to tracking behavior by teachers' unions, Mike Antonucci looks at how union membership has paced with the growth in the number of educators. It turns out, particularly over the past 15 years, it hasn't been going so well for the unions. Even though the number of educators has increased, membership in unions did not at the same pace. As a result, the percentage of teachers who belong to unions has dropped. Antonucci notes:

BLS began tracking union data in 1983. That year there were more than 2.6 million people employed as primary, secondary and special education teachers in both public and private schools. More than 1.5 million of them were union members, for a unionization rate of 57.5 percent.

By 1995 there were 600,000 more teachers, but the unionization rate was virtually identical. In the 18 years since, the rate has never approached that height again.

In fact, while America's schools added almost a million and a quarter new teachers, teachers' unions added fewer than 345,000 new members, for a rate of 27.8 percent.

In 2013, the percentage of educators who belong to teachers unions dipped below 50 percent for the first time since BLS has been monitoring the data:

Union chart
Education Intelligence Agency

To be fair about the chart and to the unions, it's not quite as big a drop as it looks at first glance. The distance between the top and the bottom of the chart is only 10 percentage points, not 100 to 0.

Nevertheless, it could be an indicator of decreasing influence by the unions. Over at the Sacramento Bee, columnist Dan Walters notes the decrease in union power over the control of the future of the California school system:

The most public example is the complex, multifront battle that pits the state's union-dominated education establishment against civil rights and reform groups over the direction of public schools. It's essentially a Democrat vs. Democrat battle, waged within big-city school boards, in the Legislature, in the state Board of Education and in the courts.

The establishment contends that the schools' shortcomings can be solved with more money – a lot more money. The California Teachers Association-led Education Coalition reiterated this month that it wants spending to rise to the average of the nation's 10 highest-spending states, which would cost $30-plus billion more a year.

Reformers don't oppose spending more, but contend that union rules and the education bureaucracy are thwarting efforts to do more for students, particularly poor and English-learner children. A lawsuit now being tried in Los Angeles is the current venue for the years-long battle.

Brian Doherty delved into that lawsuit in February. Read a lot more here.

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  1. and English-learner children.

    assuming they meant “-learning”, isn’t that all of them? or is “English-learner” the new politically correct term for “Spanish Speaking Immigrant”?

    1. I would say a native speaker has pretty much “learned” his or her language by 8, but I agree with you that the term is inaccurate. Somewhere down the line ESL student (English as a Second Language) morphed into ELL (English language learner) and I don’t know why.

      1. Political correctness, nothing else. We wouldn’t want someone to feel like they’re in “second” place.

      2. Well nominally someone who is perfectly fluent in english is still an ESL. the differentiation is implying that an ELL is not currently fluent. It’s a pretty clear semantic distinction allowing for the tracking of progress in a different way

    2. Not all ESL kids are Spanish-speakers

      1. Yes, please stop othering the Swahili-speaking kids!

      2. You’re right. The Asian immigrants have usually already mastered Spanish and English and have moved on to French and Latin.

  2. The distance between the top and the bottom of the chart is only 10 percentage points, not 100 to 0.



  4. Third best deceptive stats trick: charts with no zero

  5. So if I understand correctly, in 30 years we’ve gone from 2.6 million teachers to ~4.4 million?

    This 70% increase at a time when the number of births per year has only increased by about 25%?

    1. Yes, the education industry is suffering from a productivity collapse that rivals the collapse of farm productivity that occurred in Russia during the time the commies were consolidating power.

      1. Well maybe if they were actually paid like professionals instead of that subsistence the unions have been able to eek out for them…


    2. There is also growth by immigration, but I doubt it meets the delta.

  6. Yeah, I was wondering who gets included in these stats. I know administrator positions have grown rapidly around here. Local high school has 3 principles. No more students than my high school which had one. Same basic area.

  7. You guys do understand that the anti-union crusade the GOP has been on (and been wildly successful at) is entirely about destroying a major Dem fundraising source, right? They still want to get the last 3 of top 10 major political donors out of the way so they can have all the money on their side. They haven’t exactly been applying freedom of association principles to this effort in all cases (lots of flimsy rhetoric in that direction of course).

      1. Does it blow your mind when you find out that one of your ideological agendas is nothing but a pretext for Republican power grabbing?

    1. Motive is irrelevant.

      1. The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.

        1. I can support their actions while maintaining healthy skepticism of them. I’m under no illusions that Republicans are friends of liberty, which is why I don’t vote for them.

    2. you are aware that teachers unions a full of a bunch of freedom hating communist assholes, right? And we’d probably be better off if they all in a fucking fire, right?

      1. Yes the great menace of schoolteachers. They must be stopped before the socially conscious do-gooders the Koch brothers are prevented from completely controlling your government.

        1. If all the Koch bros get for their billions is 1 of the houses of congress, they should really look into a refund. Maybe George Soros can put on a seminar “How to properly leverage your politicians”.

          1. Yeah, if the Koch brothers put ALL their money into Congress it would STILL be less money than the TEACHERS UNIONs and their GOONS put into it each and every year.

            1. Yeah and they’re two fucking people. And what’s a GOON? Can you link to a photo of one, perhaps?

        2. Jeez, who’s writing “Tony” tonight? He’s usually a little more resourceful than falling into the Koch paranoid rants of some on the left.

    3. What ever will the Democrats do when their only sources for fundraising are the entire tech industry, the entire banking industry, the entire arts and media industry, and the entire upper middle class and they can’t extort campaign financing from low to middle wage workers against their will? Goddamn ‘publicans!

      1. The entire tech industry? The entire banking industry? Seriously? That’s closer to 50-50 on both of those.

        I grant you, the arts and entertainment industry is filled with airheaded nitwits, so yeah, that’s solidly in the Democratic camp.

        And when the Democrats get done, there’s not going to BE an “upper middle class” to get donations from.

      2. The entire tech industry? The entire banking industry? Seriously? That’s closer to 50-50 on both of those.

        I grant you, the arts and entertainment industry is filled with airheaded nitwits, so yeah, that’s solidly in the Democratic camp.

        And when the Democrats get done, there’s not going to BE an “upper middle class” to get donations from.

  8. Only an “Education Intelligence Agency” would use a multi-colored bar graph with y-axis bounds of 48% and 58%. Better than a pie chart I guess, but not by much.

  9. }}} Education Intelligence Agency

    Ahhh, yeaaah…. The very FIRST thing someone at the “Education Intelligence Agency” needs to learn is how to construct a basic CHART.

    ‘Cause that thing’s a lot closer to a “SHART” than a CHART.

  10. Tony is right, teachers unions are strictly a branch of the Democrat Party.


  11. I have to agree with all of the previous comments and I guess there is not much to add. It is quite obvious why the number of educators joining communities has dropped recently (by the way, I think it will continue to decrease). But what caught me by a surprise here was that the number of teacher keeps on getting bigger. I did not think that this profession was still kind of a popular among kids (it’s just the pay isn’t that tempting). In any case, we need professional educators who can finally teach our children how to speak, write (get undergraduate coursework here) and other in a right way.

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