The 3 million members of NEA include teachers in all subject areas as well as librarians, school counselors, nurses, custodial and maintenance staff, skilled trade and technical service professionals, and almost all other school workers. Principals along with college deans and faculty are members, too. In fact, there are more than 300 categories within NEA’s membership.
In 2019, NEA created a new membership category for community allies. They are the friends, parents, and community members who believe that every student deserves a quality education and who work to increase opportunities for students.
These allies bring their passion, talents, and expertise to NEA’s movement to build support for educators, public education, and racial and social justice.
One of these new members is Frances Kraft. A former teacher and union member, she is co-founder and president of a non-profit, called Equity Team, that focuses on community organizing and restorative practices in the Chicago area. Her work helps to create trusted bonds among students, families, and educators, and connects schools to partnering institutions, such as local libraries.
“I was so excited to learn that I could return to NEA as a community ally,” Kraft says. “I believe so strongly that the work that must take place in our schools for racial and social justice must be led by teachers.”
NEA’s work on these issues is “so well regarded, and NEA is doing really exciting things,” she adds. Kraft is involved in union-led efforts to build community coalitions. She also participates in NEA’s Leaders for Just Schools program—a training in which educators learn to recognize bias and increase understanding. As part of the program, Kraft has helped train educators on relationship-building when organizing for social and racial justice. She also leads restorative circles—a group activity that helps participants process thoughts and feelings.
As a community ally, Kraft can now bring resources and connections to schools without some of the limitations she had as a district employee.
“I can be more vocal about issues that relate to policies and work toward those changes in partnership with teachers,” she says. For Kraft, being an NEA member means she belongs to a big family of people working toward a common purpose.
“Anytime we can get away from working alone … and join together to do the work, that’s going to be an important part of how we move schools forward,” Kraft says.
NEA members—whether educators or allies—share a commitment to their students and their profession.
Have a friend or colleague who is a community ally to public education? Invite them to join the movement! They can sign up here: nea.org/community-ally.