Teachers' Union Contracts and the Productive Efficiency of School Districts: Longitudinal Evidence from California
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
In this paper, we examine the relationships between CBA strength and 1) district resource allocation, 2) student achievement, 3) districts’ productive efficiency. To do so, we combine a longitudinal dataset of measures of CBA strength with measures of district resource allocation and student achievement. We generate the measures of CBA strength from approximately 500 California school districts through the use of a partial independence item response model (see Strunk & Reardon (2010) for a review), obtaining contract-based measures from the CBAs in place in the 2005-6, 2008-9, 2011-12 and 2015-16 school years. Our measures of California district resource allocation are taken from the state’s public finance dataset and include districts’ total per-pupil expenditures and subsets of the expenditures allocated towards instructional costs, teachers’ salaries, administrators’ salaries, certificated personnel benefits, classified-personnel benefits, books and supplies, and pupil services. Achievement data (overall and subgroup average achievement on ELA and math achievement tests and the proportion of students who achieve proficiency on these tests) are also retrieved from publicly available district- and school-level data. These data span 2004-5 through 2016-17. From the expenditure and achievement data we follow Lavigne et al. (2017) to construct six measures of efficiency, or expenditure-to-performance ratios. We model districts’ productive efficiency as a function of CBA strength and a set of district characteristics with district and year fixed effects, and incorporate specification checks that account for the potential impacts of the Great Recession, changes to the California school funding formula and legal challenges to teachers’ unions in the state (e.g., Vergara vs. California).
Preliminary results suggest that, once we account for district and year fixed effects, CBA strength does not affect student achievement. However, CBA strength does impact the ways in which districts allocate their resources, causing districts to spend more overall, driven by increased expenditures on salaries (both teachers and administrators). It is not surprising, then, that we find that districts with stronger CBAs are less efficient in their spending. These results have important policy implications for the many states that have implemented or are considering implementing restrictions to the scope of teachers’ unions’ collective bargaining rights.