Opposition to private-practice teaching and other contract arrangements with public schools has come chiefly from the National Education Association (NEA) and its state and local affiliates. Not only is the NEA the largest teachers union, it is also the largest union in the United States. With 2.2 million members, the NEA is a powerful and influential force in education policy, particularly as it concerns public education at the K-12 level. (The American Federation of Teachers, or AFI, which is expected to merge with the NEA, claims approximately 820,000 members.)22 Many attempts by public schools to contract with a private provider for instructional and non-instructional services have failed due to resistance from public employees and their unions. Given the incentives involved, it is unrealistic to expect to gain the full support of union leadership when it comes to contracting for instruction.
Even if state legislation allows public schools to contract for instruction, such an effort may be blocked at the local level by collective-bargaining agreements. School administrators may wish to include a provision in the collective-bargaining agreement explicitly allowing for contract instruction. Such a provision will make it easier for a public-school district to pursue this option should it wish to do so at some later date.
Despite union opposition, many private-practice educators have been successful in winning contracts with the public schools. Local school boards, principals, individual educators, and parents are usually open to the idea of exploring alternative ways of delivering education. Moreover, school boards tend to use the contracting option as a supplement, rather than a replacement, for the existing instructional arrangement. In such a case, union positions are not significantly threatened.