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Education Reporter

AAE Is Alternative to NEA
WASHINGTON, DC - The Association of American Educators (AAE) bills itself as "a nonprofit, nonpartisan national teachers association offering many of the same benefits the teacher unions provide but at a fraction of the cost and without the liberal politics." This is good news for many thousands of teachers nationwide who feel unrepresented by the unions.

The AAE reports that more than 250,000 teachers in 17 states have joined independent teacher associations to obtain their liability insurance, which is the single biggest reason teachers join the unions. "In Georgia, Missouri and Texas," AAE literature notes, "these independent associations have grown larger than the NEA or AFT affiliates in those states."

In Arkansas, the AAE affiliate has incorporated as the Arkansas State Teachers Association (ASTA). Some members call it "the conservative voice for Arkansas' teachers." ASTA pledges to seek recognition "as a positive force for education in Arkansas and to be seated on the same state advisory boards and committees as the Arkansas Education Association (NEA)." The group will also work "to dispel the myth that the NEA is the only voice representing the views of the average hard-working classroom teacher."

ASTA member Jody Parsons reports that the AAE has recently added an affiliate in Washington state. "That makes four new affiliates in 2001, which is very exciting. AAE is the national voice for more than 300,000 teachers, and we have also just established a Washington, DC office."

The AAE and its affiliates say they prefer more involvement from parents and local communities than from the federal government. The organization does not contribute any portion of members' dues to political candidates or parties, while such contributions by the teacher unions have been as high as 50% of dues in some states.

Predictably, the AAE's growth has attracted the ire of the NEA, which has labeled the association "a stalking horse for the right wing" and "an enemy of public education." AAE spokesman Tracy Bailey counters: "No wonder the NEA is worried, the AAE represents that which is so sorely needed — professionalism and a focus on children first!"

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