Little Compton School house

Founded in 1845, the National Education Association RI (NEARI) - formerly the RI Education Association, and first known as RI Institute of Instruction - is the oldest and largest professional non-profit education organization in continuous service to Rhode Islanders.

Many people might think that NEARI began with the enactment of the 1966 School Teachers' Arbitration Act - or Michaelson Act - which gave teachers the right to negotiate with their school committees, and obligated school committees to negotiate with their teachers.

On the contrary, educator advocacy for students and the profession has a much longer history than that.

In its earliest years, the Institute was a strong advocate for the creation of the Rhode Island Normal School (Rhode Island College), New England's first.

The Institute also can take credit for encouraging the creation of town and district libraries, introducing music into the public schools, working toward establishing a State Board of Education, and opening of evening schools in manufacturing villages.

old classroom

Once organized, RI educators were quick to exercise their power. At the 16th annual meeting in 1860, teachers took control of the Institute leadership away from businessmen, doctors, and ministers, and it became primarily an association of educators. Today, all categories of membership share in the elected leadership of NEARI.

Our membership includes educators who work in public schools, both public and private higher education faculty and staffs, teacher assistants and clerical employees, and custodial and maintenance workers, along with public employees outside the education field.

Old English classroom

Both NEA and NEARI grew to include programs for legal assistance, instructional development, leadership training, legislative and political action, public relations, research, and consumer product packages.

Improvement of education and protection and defense of members' rights have remained of foremost importance, however. NEA and NEARI have fought and continue to fight in many arenas to pursue the quality of public education that is a reality today.

"Once organized, RI educators were quick to exercise their power."