Tough Times at Teachers’ Union as Director Retires

The longtime director of the Tennessee Education Association is retiring. It’s the second big departure this month at the state’s largest teacher’s union. Director Al Mance is leaving TEA, on the heels of lobbyist Jerry Winters. Their exits come at a difficult time for the organization.

TEA took a couple hits in Tennessee’s Republican-led legislature last year. The teacher’s union lost its collective-bargaining rights, and membership has plunged. But the retirements this month are a coincidence, says TEA President Gera Summerford. The turnover, she maintains, is not evidence of a decline.

“I have watched both of these professional, excellent gentlemen work in their roles for TEA for many, many years, I’ve worked very closely with them now for two and a half years, and neither of them is the kind of person who would give up a good fight.”

In the last couple years thousands of teachers let their memberships with TEA lapse, after lawmakers made it harder for the union to collect dues. Where membership was once over 50 thousand, Summerford now expects it to stabilize in the low forties.

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