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Advocacy Victories

We can accomplish so much when we work together and speak up for our students, public schools, and communities.

For more than a century, NEA’s members have joined together with families and community leaders to advocate for our students and our public schools.

And along the way, we’ve accomplished quite a bit.

Take a look at what we can do together when we speak up for students and educators.

The 21st Century

student debt relief

NEA members win student debt cancellation for hundreds of thousands of public service workers

After hearing from thousands of NEA members across the country, the Department of Education announces much needed reforms to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The changes include a temporary waiver that will provide imminent relief for tens of thousands of public service workers, like educators, and eventual relief for hundreds of thousands of borrowers. Previously, the broken PSLF program denied 98 percent of the applications filed and forgave just 16,100 borrowers.

NEA helps pass COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act

NEA members rally to protect Asian Pacific Islanders from hate crimes and discrimination spurred by the pandemic. The law strengthens federal efforts to address these crimes in multiple ways.
Biden at desk

Biden’s American Rescue Plan prioritizes public schools

ARP is the single largest investment in public education in U.S. history. It includes all three of NEA’s top priorities: President Joe Biden invested $170 billion in dedicated education funding for K-12 schools and higher education; $350 billion in state and local aid to help avoid further layoffs of educators and other essential public servants; and $7.2 million in emergency funding for the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate program to equip students to do schoolwork at home.

Health care benefits protected

NEA urges the Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act and safeguard the health and safety of students and families; the Court agrees.

Education Support Professionals honored federally after a decade of lobbying

The Recognizing Achievement in Classified School Employees Act passes with bipartisan support and establishes the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award for excellence in providing services to pre-K to grade 12 students and schools.

Affordable Care Act’s 40 percent tax on “high cost” health plans repealed

Scheduled to take effect in 2022, this tax burden would have been borne by the 180 million Americans with employer-sponsored health coverage—including many educators—in the form of benefit reductions, higher deductibles, or both.

#RedForEd movement shows educator power

The national #RedForEd movement begins in West Virginia, with educators striking in response to low salaries and rising healthcare costs. Educators in California, North Carolina, Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and other states joined in the following two years.
NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia attends the signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Educators cheer for passage of The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

Educator activism and lobbying leads to the replacement of No Child Left Behind. The Every Student Succeeds Act meets all three of NEA’s core goals: It creates an “opportunity dashboard” to help ensure equity and opportunity for all students, reduces standardized testing and decouples it from high-stakes decisions, and empowers educators by giving them a voice in federal, state, and local decision-making.

Educator tax deduction made permanent

In recognition of the money that educators spend from their own pockets to equip classrooms, a $250 educator tax deduction is made permanent and indexed to inflation.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protects thousands of educators

On June 15, the Secretary of Homeland Security announces that people who were brought to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization, and many become educators!

$10 billion Education Jobs Fund created by Congress

After the Great Recession of 2008, this fund saved the jobs of an estimated 138,000 educators coast to coast.



IDEA amends law to protect the rights of students

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act promises to make a “free appropriate public education” available to children and young people with disabilities and to provide special education and related services.

Department of Education elevated to Cabinet

Following years of intense lobbying efforts by NEA, the United States Department of Education is elevated to full cabinet status, helping to provide and regulate education nationally.
President Ford signing IDEA

Education for All Handicapped Children Act becomes law

With the activism of NEA members, President Gerald Ford signs the civil rights measure into law, guaranteeing access to education for every child.

The U.S. Supreme Court defends rights of working women

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

NEA forms the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education

The political action committee allows NEA to influence the national legislative agenda, shape electoral platforms, and lend support to candidates with positions favorable to public education, regardless of party. Funded by member contributions, it becomes one of the nation’s largest and most influential PACs.
In 1969, activists in Seattle marched as part of a national movement calling for lowering the voting age to 18.

Aspiring educators helped lower the voting age to 18

Student Educators launch Project 18, a national campaign to change the voting age to 18. Activists work to pass the 26th Amendment, which allows millions of young people to participate in the democratic process and to have a powerful voice in shaping their political future.

Celebrating the Passage of the 26th Amendment



NEA members elect first Hispanic president, advocate for local funding

Braulio Alonso becomes NEA’s first Latino president. NEA begins a drive for multicultural instruction and improved the representation of people of color in textbooks.

Title I regulations support students

Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act seeks to level the playing field for the most vulnerable students, including poor children, students with disabilities, and English-language learners. The same year, an NEA-produced film, “Children Without,” is nominated for an Academy Award.

President Lyndon Johnson signs ESEA

Johnson is named an NEA Honorary Life Member for signing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the cornerstone of the federal presence in K-12 education. The law represents a commitment to equal access to education for students regardless of ZIP Code.
NEA-ATA merger timeline graphic

NEA and American Teachers Association join to recruit and retain educators of color

Following Brown v. Board of Education decision, NEA establishes a $1 million fund—more than $10 million in today’s dollars—to “protect and promote the professional, civil, and human rights of educators,” and worked with ATA to support educators of color and retain them in the profession.

NEA and ATA Join Forces



NEA helps eliminate race-based salary schedules

NEA and ATA provides data to the Supreme Court in a case that found dual-salary schedules based on race unconstitutional.
Smiling public school girl eating healthy vegetable lunch

President Truman sign the National School Lunch Act into law

The lives of students from lower-income families are improved once Congress began providing grants to states to ensure that all schools could provide lunch.

Educators win rights to political activism

The Hatch Act previously banned all public employees from political activity, but the amendment allows teachers and NEA to participate in public affairs.

NEA members secure first collective bargaining agreement

NEA members in Norwalk, Conn. go on strike and secured the first-ever collective bargaining agreement for educators.

NEA protects educator activism at the ballot

Kate Frank, a local teacher activist in Muskogee, Okla., is terminated for supporting a school board candidate. After NEA wins her case, she is reinstated and the Association initiates the Kate Frank/DuShane Fund to defend other wrongfully terminated educators.

School construction is included in Works Progress Administration

Because of educator advocacy, hundreds of school buildings are constructed with federal funding.

NEA supports accreditation for schools serving Black students

In the 1920s, the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SASC) did not accredit schools for Black students, severely limiting their access to higher education. NEA joines with the American Teachers Association to pressure SASC to change. The Joint Committee for Justice was the first of several successful NEA-American Teachers Association partnerships.

NEA members create the first pension for educators

NEA member advocacy leads all states to create laws to provide funds for transporting children to school. That same year, NEA members in New Jersey creat the first pension for school employees.
Womens Suffrage

NEA votes to support the fight for Women’s Suffrage

Almost a decade before women are granted the right to vote, women educators are able to join NEA, vote in NEA elections, and run for office. Ella Flagg Young is elected the first woman president of NEA in 1910.

NEA’s National Convention is Dedicated to Ending Child Labor

Educators lead the national conversation to end child labor, later supported and chartered by an act of Congress.

NEA champions Retirement

NEA passes a resolution insisting on retirement plans for education employees in all states.

NEA Denounces Slavery

At the summer convention, J.P. Wilkersham, president of the National Teachers Association (NEA’s forerunner), denounces slavery and recommends that no seceded states be readmitted to the Union until they agree to provide a free public school system for Black as well as white children.

NEA is founded as the National Teachers Association

One hundred educators (from 10 state associations) meet with the mission “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.”
National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.