On May 23, 1856, 110 teachers from 22 Missouri counties met in Wyman’s Hall in St. Louis and established a professional association for Missouri educators. To quote the first constitution, the group’s purpose was “to promote the sacred interests of education by uniting the different members advancing their mutual improvement, and elevating the profession to its just intellectual and moral influence on the community.” The organization was named the Missouri Teachers Association.
Membership was open to teachers and others actively engaged in promoting the interests of education.
Two significant events occurred the following year. First, an agent was employed to represent the organization; this position became known as executive secretary in 1915 and was later changed to executive director. Second, a publication called The Missouri Journal for Education was printed and distributed. It was changed to The Missouri Educator for a few years. These publications were the forerunners of School and Community magazine, which became a monthly periodical in 1920 and is still being published today.
The association was divided into four auxiliary associations in 1878 and eight territorial divisions in 1917. Today, MSTA encompasses 10 regions. Each region has a governing body and elects members to the state Board of Directors. Representation is proportional to membership.
1900 was the year that the organization became incorporated and underwent a name change to become known as the Missouri State Teachers Association. This began our existence as a corporate body, and we continue to maintain a not-for-profit status today.
MSTA has had many important successes in the Missouri Legislature. Victories include a minimum school term, compulsory school attendance, state board of education, child labor laws, free textbooks, school consolidation, equal educational opportunities for all children, transportation for students, the teacher retirement system, school bus safety laws, the school foundation program, a code of professional ethics, and a revised Missouri Constitution that included sections on education and taxation, especially school levies.
In its efforts to protect the interests of education and educators through the years, MSTA has participated in many court cases. Suits were initiated concerning diversion of state taxes, reduction of state school funds, securing a share of insurance fines, the governor’s veto of school appropriations, discipline of students by teachers, constitutionality of a majority vote, and constitutionality of the state cigarette tax. More recently MSTA participated in suits relating to the equality of a revised foundation formula, collection of retirement contributions on fringe benefits, and funding cuts of state school appropriations.
Our headquarters building was built in 1927 in Columbia and has the distinction of being the first building built by and for a state teachers’ organization. It resembles an English manor house with steep gables, skylights, wooden paneling, leaded glass windows, and carved fireplaces and entry way. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Members are welcome there whenever they visit Columbia.
The headquarters staff began to grow in 1938 with the addition of an assistant secretary. This growth continued, and today the staff consists of approximately 56 full- or part-time employees.
Until 1972 MSTA was a part of the National Education Association — in fact, we were one of its founding organizations. Two major factors — basic differences in philosophy and NEA’s unification policy — contributed to our disaffiliation with NEA. NEA’s insistence that CTAs, MSTA districts, and the state organization unify with NEA into one dues-structured organization led our Assembly of Delegates to vote in 1972 to remain independent so that every Missouri educator would have the choice of whether or not to join our professional association instead of a union.
Since 1856 MSTA has been the professional way for Missouri educators. Our commitment to professionalism is one of our tenets which made and kept us a solid association.