Michigan Education Association

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The Michigan Education Association (MEA), headquartered in East Lansing, Michigan, is a labor union representing more than 157,000 teachers, faculty and education support staff throughout the state.[1] Usually referred to as a “teachers' union” its membership also includes college faculty, public school custodians, bus drivers, and paraprofessionals, among others. It represents people working in neighborhood public schools, those in charter schools as well as school employees working for private companies.

While MEA works to serve its members’ employment goals, it also promotes public education. It sees these goals as closely related.[2] Through policies put in place by its elected Board of Directors, MEA advocates for polices it judges to be best for student success, for civil rights and for the quality of life for all. Its mission statement states: “The mission of the MEA is to ensure that the education of our students and the working environments of our members are of the highest quality." Like other public sector unions, the MEA has come under fire in recent years for its defense of teacher employment protections. Controversy over the role of the MEA is part of a wider debate on the structure[3] and funding[4] of public education in Michigan and around the United States.[5][6]


MEA was founded in 1852 as the Michigan State Teachers Association, five years before the National Education Association was organized, becoming the Michigan Education Association in 1926. Today it is the largest public employee union in the state and the third largest education association in the United States.

In 1937 the MEA’s governing body, the Representative Assembly, authorized the development of a group hospitalization program.[7] This was one of the first such health care programs in the United States. Two years later, the Hoosier Casualty Company provided coverage for MEA members, administrated by local insurance agent Herman Henkel.

Michigan law forbade the MEA from acting as an agent for its members, so when Henkel retired in 1960, it was decided that a separate non-profit corporation would serve this function, and Michigan Education Special Services Association (MESSA) was born. 10,000 MEA members were enrolled at the time.

Tax-exempt under IRS 501(c)(9), MESSA qualified as a “voluntary employees’ beneficiary association” and could therefore offer group term life, health, and dental coverages, among others, to its members.

When the Michigan bargaining law was enacted in 1965, public school employees were able to organize into local bargaining units to negotiate salary, benefits and other working conditions. Insurance became a bargainable issue.[8] In 1984, MEA merged with the Michigan Educational Support Personnel, making MEA one of the first state associations to represent both teachers and other school personnel. In 2007, MEA membership exceeded 160,000.[9]


Paula Herbart[edit]


Paula Herbart took office as President of the 140,000-member Michigan Education Association on Sept. 1, 2017. A K-12 music teacher in Macomb County’s Fraser Public Schools, Herbart served in numerous leadership roles within her local, including local president. In 2012, she was elected president of MEA/NEA Local 1, serving 16 districts in Macomb and Wayne counties. She has served on the MEA and NEA Board of Directors, as chair of the 6-E Coordinating Council, and vice chair of both the MEA’s Local Option Coalition and the Instructional and Professional Development Committee. A graduate of the University of Michigan School of Music, Herbart lives in Macomb County with her husband and son.

Chandra Madafferi[edit]

Vice President[edit]

Chandra Madafferi became Vice President of the Michigan Education Association on Sept. 1, 2017. A high school health teacher in Oakland County’s Novi Community Schools, Madafferi began her involvement with her local association as co-chair of the Political Action Committee, later assuming other leadership roles including president, treasurer and negotiation spokesperson. She has been a delegate to the MEA and NEA Representative Assemblies and the Region 7 Council, and has served on the MEA Communications Committee. Having joined Student MEA while earning her undergraduate degree in education at Central Michigan University, she has served as the member liaison to the Student MEA Advisory Committee. Originally from West Michigan, Madafferi lives in South Lyon with her family, where her children attend South Lyon Community Schools.

Brett Smith[edit]

Secretary Treasurer[edit]

Brett Smith assumed the office of MEA Secretary-Treasurer on Sept. 1, 2017. A 5th grade teacher from Linden Community Schools in Genesee County, Smith has been an MEA member since 2000. He served as local president in Linden, as well as other local leadership roles. He has also served as treasurer of the 10-G Coordinating Council, drawing on his degree in Business Finance from University of Michigan Flint and previous experience working for General Motors and Ameritech. Smith also earned a master’s degree in Science of Administration from Central Michigan University, and an endorsement in Education Administration from Eastern Michigan University. Smith and his wife Tracey have four children—one attending Baker College, one at Kendall College, and two who are students at Linden Community Schools.


  1. ^ MEA - About - History of the MEA
  2. ^ MEA - About the MEA
  3. ^ Citizens Research Council of Michigan (May 2011). "Reform of K-12 School District and Governance Management in Michigan". Retrieved 14 June 2011. 
  4. ^ Citizens Research Council of Michigan (September 2010). "State and Local Revenues for Public Education in Michigan". Retrieved 14 June 2011. 
  5. ^ Loveless, Tom (February 2011). "The 2010 Brown Center Report on American Education". Brookings Institution. Retrieved 14 June 2011. 
  6. ^ "Fresh Air: The Debate Over School Reform". National Public Radio. Retrieved 14 June 2011. 
  7. ^ “A Chronology of Michigan Education and the Michigan Education Association 1817-1966,” compiled by Octavius Townsend, 1967
  8. ^ Michigan PA 379 of 1965 -- This drove MESSA enrollment growth, which reached 70,000 by 1979. MESSA History
  9. ^ MEA - About - Our Leaders