The policymaking body of the National Education Assn., the nation's largest teachers union, agreed Friday to form a wide-ranging partnership with its smaller rival, the American Federation of Teachers.
The move is aimed at increasing the influence of both organizations over education policies.
Meeting in Los Angeles, delegates representing the 2.6 million members of the National Education Assn. endorsed the plan to work in concert with the 1-million-member American Federation of Teachers on such issues as increasing spending on education. The AFT's executive council is expected to concur later this month.
Both organizations wield considerable clout, which they exercise through lobbying, litigation, campaign donations and support of education-friendly politicians. The unions already operate jointly in three states and in several large cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.
A proposal to formally merge the two national organizations was defeated by the NEA assembly in 1998 despite strong backing from the union's leadership. Union critics have warned that a full merger between the AFT and NEA would increase their power to block school reforms.
NEA President Bob Chase said Friday the partnership will allow the unions to "work together to make every school great."