TCTA was founded in 1927. In honor of this long history we highlight facets of our development as a strong, respected Texas education association, sprinkled with a few historical references to help put our history and achievements in perspective.
In 1927, the year that Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic, the Texas Classroom Teachers Association was founded, growing out of an older organization known as the Texas Grade Teachers Association. Secondary teachers were able to become members of this reorganized group, which allowed teachers of all levels to work together on problems of common interest. The U.S. Department of Education was created by Congress in the 1920s and in Texas during this time many, if not most, education-related organizations co-existed under the banner of the Texas State Teachers Association.
The umbrella organization, which had been in existence since the 1870s, was a loose affiliation of interest groups and associations including TCTA, the Elementary School Principals and Supervisors (now TEPSA), the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), the Texas State Physical Education Association (now TAHPERD), the State Teachers College, a Deans Association, the High School Principals and Supervisors (now TASSP), the Interscholastic League, and a Superintendents section.
TCTA’s early work included carrying out an educational campaign in favor of teacher retirement legislation in the 1930s. We began to work cooperatively with other education associations and, though loosely structured, TCTA began to emerge as a strong advocate for teachers by the 1940s. The November 1943 edition of the NEA News Bulletin from the Department of Classroom Teachers noted, “The Texas Classroom Teachers Association has helped the teacher leaders of the state to study and recognize the needs of the teachers of the state as a whole…Teacher retirement was a most important objective and the Association worked tirelessly until a retirement bill was passed and adequate provisions made to finance it.” (As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same….) TCTA dues were 50 cents at that time, and we had no publications, headquarters or staff. Twenty Texas cities were home to local CTAs, and volunteer leaders corresponded regularly about issues of interest and met on Thanksgiving Day (and the day following) each year. In an era when many school systems had no regular salary schedules, or implemented schedules paying more to men than women and more to high school teachers than to grade school teachers, TCTA advocated for a single salary schedule. Local school boards also were urged to revoke rules and regulations that caused a woman to lose her position if she should (and this a quote) “commit matrimony.”
By the mid-1940s, a time when Big Bend National Park was established, TCTA began to hold workshops on professional problems and published the TCTA News Bulletin. There were 39 local affiliates by the end of 1946. Dues were raised to $1, and members subsequently voted to double that amount in order to secure a headquarters location and an executive secretary. Frank Potter was hired in 1947 and a headquarters office was established in Houston. Our first “Conference of Presidents of Local Affiliates” was held that year in Mineral Wells. Two years later, Texas established a “central education agency” composed of an elected State Board of Education, a state Commissioner of Education and a State Department of Education.
By the mid-1950s, TCTA’s membership exceeded 21,000. Our first Convention was held in Waco, and delegates resolved that a fund be established for the purchase of a headquarters building in Austin. Earlier that decade, in 1953, a bill was introduced in the State Legislature to raise the legal minimum teacher salary from $2,400 (annually) to $3,000. Objections to the proposal included familiar concerns about additional taxes and increase of state, rather than local, control. TCTA relocated to Austin in 1957, and was active in work on certification legislation.
In the 1960s, the era of men on the moon and the Beatles, TCTA's program development really took off. TCTA membership had reached an all-time high of 32,000 by 1963-64, with a total of 179 local affiliates. Highlights of the decade include: increased legislative activism, including seeking sick leave provisions for teachers; installation of an “emergency telephone system” for after-hours calls; membership growth to 37,000 in 1965, despite a dues increase to $5; purchase of the John and Pierre Bremond Houses; creation of the first Teacher Defense Fund; and the hiring of a full-time staff attorney (the first for Texas teacher organizations!). Some things were a bit different back then, for example TEA’s “Tape Lab” taped our Convention speakers and sent copies to members on request in exchange for payment of 4-7 cents in stamps (!), and TCTA services included around-the-world tour packages for members.
TCTA delegates voted in 1970-71 to become a TSTA departmental affiliate. We continued to have our own offices and staff, and to build programs, including formation of the TCTA Services Corporation in 1973-74. The following year, we were able to offer a Professional Liability Insurance Plan, and membership peaked at 53,000. Interestingly, TCTA’s strength was apparently threatening to the influence of administrator groups within TSTA, who would one day join with TCTA in establishing themselves independently of TSTA.1
Key professional improvements sought by TCTA during the era included a class size limit of 25 pupils; enhancement of teacher retirement and sick leave; a payroll deduction plan for dues; conference planning periods for all teachers; and duty-free lunch.
TSTA affiliated with NEA in 1974 and began to compete with us for recruitment of teacher members. In 1978, efforts began to rapidly and involuntarily consolidate TCTA with TSTA – led by delegates and Board members who were also TSTA leaders — which culminated in an all-member vote in 1980.
By a 3-to-1 margin, the motion to consolidate with TSTA was defeated, and TCTA delegates voted the following year to disaffiliate altogether from TSTA. Membership losses were precipitous, dropping to below 20,000, as many teachers chose to belong to one or the other, but not both, organizations. But we began to rebuild, literally and figuratively. In 1984, TCTA undertook restoration of the Bremond houses and, in 1986, prepared tens of thousands of educators for the new TECAT with our review course.
During the 1990s, as the U.S. economy boomed and the Cold War ended with the dissolution of the USSR, TCTA thrived in its independent state. Membership grew each year of the decade and programs TCTA developed include: Initiating toll-free service for members to contact headquarters; periodic legislative and education updates mailed to all members; the TCTA legislative hotline; an expanded legal staff; premiere of our website; and much more.
Our early accomplishments in the 21st century include providing annual regional training workshops for our local leaders; delivering SBEC-approved professional development seminars free to our members through the TCTA website; establishing and expanding a social media presence; and increasing our influence with Texas legislators and policymakers. We are well-served by remembering the proud tradition of those who have gone before us. Recognizing the history and achievements of this organization, we are proud that TCTA is The Educated Choice® for Texas teachers since 1927.
1 Feldman, David M. Teacher Organizations in Texas: A Labor Relations Guidebook, 1982, page 31.
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