Top 4 Group Influences in Public Education Part I: Professional Education Organizations
There are many external influences that impact public education. In this series the top four will be reviewed including the influence of professional education organizations, the involvement of parents, the businesses, and the federal government and court systems. For this part professional education organizations will be discussed to reveal their direct impact on public education.
There are two major professional education organizations to which teachers can belong: the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). These are discussed in greater detail in subsequent chapters. Teachers can belong to these national organizations by becoming members of local affiliate associations. The prominence of teachers’ professional organizations, and teachers’ voices in educational concerns and policies, has increased in recent years. The NEA and AFT affect policy at the national level and are influential due to their large membership numbers and their ability to convince members to vote for or against a particular political tenant. Locally, teachers’ organizations have been particularly effective at influencing policy and decision making, largely due to approaches such as threatening to strike if their demands aren’t met or if their concerns remain unheard.
Many teacher associations have come to fulfill the role of official bargaining agents for their members. Several of these associations have insisted that certain issues, such as professional salaries, curriculum creation, class sizes, and professional development, become part of the collective bargaining process. In some instances, teachers’ attempts to negotiate working conditions have not been met favorably by either superintendents or local school boards. This situation has been ameliorated somewhat by the provision of site-based management and decision making. This concept dictates that because most changes must occur at the school level, most decisions should be made at that level as well. So, budgetary and administrative decisions are made at the school level, with the administrative team seeking input from their teaching staff. The site-based decision-making model has increased the power of teachers to effect change within their direct work environment.
You’ll likely belong to a local affiliate of either the NEA or AFT. It’s imperative that you use appropriate channels to voice your concerns as an educator. Attending local meetings to be aware of current issues and trends is an excellent way to be knowledgeable and to make informed decisions pertaining to your career. You could consider running for office in one of the local chapters of your teachers’ association. You may also wish to join a school-based committee to take part in site-based management, to determine how funds will be spent, or to have a say in how educational policy will be interpreted in your school.
School officials, the local superintendent, and the school principal are not the only influences on your career as a teacher. Many other interested parties can impact what you do in your classes. Therefore being aware of the potential professional education organizations that are available or affiliated with your public school system can aid in your involvement as an Educator or community leader. Professional education organizations are only one type of influence, hence continue to read about the four influences on public education.