There has not always been multiple teacher groups in Missouri. At one time there was only one teacher association in Missouri, the Missouri State Teachers Association, founded in 1856. MSTA helped found the National Education Association in 1857. However, that changed in 1972, a year that became a watershed for the education profession in Missouri. MSTA delegates were under intense pressure to fall in line with NEA’s unification policy.
The new policy would mean all members would be forced to pay dues to the national association, a policy most MSTA members felt violated their freedom of choice and went against MSTA’s strong belief in local control. There was growing dismay among Missouri teachers that NEA was becoming an all-out labor union.
Clearly, a vote for unification would have been against the will of the membership, but a vote against unification would have meant censure by the powerful national association. The independent-minded Missouri teachers held their ground and voted down unification. Retribution was swift — total disaffiliation from the national organization.