The West Virginia Education Association was founded in 1865, just two years after the formation of West Virginia. An affiliate of the National Education Association, the WVEA is the largest education employee organization in the state with more than 17,000 members, including classroom teachers, educational support personnel, and employees of institutions of higher education, as well as retired educators and college students preparing for careers in education.
Over time, the WVEA has evolved from a professional organization often controlled by management into a powerful teachers’ union. In 1863, the West Virginia legislature gave official sanction to teacher organizations in the first school law. In 1865, the state superintendent called a state convention of teachers to meet in Fairmont, and the association grew from this meeting. Thus began a period during which WVEA was under the influence of the state superintendent. The association’s first recorded constitution and bylaws were drafted and adopted at its 1874 convention.
By the turn of the 20th century, teachers were beginning to look to the labor movement as a guide to meeting their needs. In 1904, for the first time, a president who was not the state superintendent of schools was elected to head the WVEA. Previously called the Education Association of West Virginia, in 1909 the name became the State Education Association. It officially became the West Virginia Education Association in 1949.
The West Virginia Education Association solidified its power in the latter half of the 20th century under strong leaders, including Phares Reeder and Kayetta Meadows. Meadows led the group during the pivotal 1990 teachers’ strike, gaining significant raises and other concessions for West Virginia teachers.
This Article was written by Jacqueline G. Goodwin
Last Revised on November 12, 2010
Lord, Charles A. Years of Decision: A History of an Organization. Charleston: Education Association, 1965.