Panel Paper: Do Reforms to the Traditional Public School Teacher Labor Market Effect Charter Teachers As Well? Evidence from Tenure, Evaluation and Collective Bargaining Changes in Michigan

Friday, November 3, 2017
Gold Coast (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Joshua Cowen, Michigan State University and Katharine O. Strunk, University of Southern California

Over the past seven years, the teaching profession has undergone substantial change as policymakers at both the state and federal levels have enacted reforms aimed at improving teacher quality. One set of reforms includes policies designed to liberalize the teacher labor market: more robust teacher evaluation; tying tenure to evaluation results; limits to collective bargaining; and restrictions on union dues for teachers. Researchers are beginning to examine such reforms in places like North Carolina, Louisiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin. Absent from this new line of inquiry, however, has been a focus on the ways these reforms may also impact markets in other.

In particular, many states are home to large charter school markets. If changes to teaching conditions in traditional public schools (TPS) lead to substantial shifts within or exit from those schools, charters may realize ancillary effects on their own labor market. For example, a more flexible TPS labor market may be more appealing to charter teachers and conversely the charter sector may be more appealing to TPS teachers, enabling greater crossover between the two markets. In any context in which the TPS and charter markets are more tightly aligned, and especially if there is a reform-induced attrition of TPS teachers, it is likely that there will be increased competition between charter schools and TPS for teachers, which might result in changes to teacher compensation, or changes to demographics, credentials, experience or education of teachers entering and remaining in each sector. In short, by changing so significantly the market for teachers in TPS schools, policymakers have also changed the conditions under which charter schools operate. Understanding the implications of such change is critical to a full assessment of the impact of reform on the overall teacher labor market.

In this paper, we consider these implications in Michigan where reforms to teacher tenure, evaluation and collective bargaining took place in 2011. There are more than 300 charter schools in Michigan and in Detroit, 55% of students attend charters, making that city the second largest charter share nationally behind New Orleans. Charters were subject to the teacher evaluation changes, but not to the teacher tenure and collective bargaining changes because teachers in these schools neither have tenure nor collectively bargain. Thus one qualitative result of the 2011 reforms was to align more closely a number of the employment conditions between the two sectors. Using rich administrative data on all TPS and charter teachers from 2005 through 2015, we first analyze patterns of sector crossover and attrition as they existed in the pre-reform era. Next we estimate changes resulting from the 2011 reforms on both sets of outcomes. We find important pre- and post-trend differences in these patterns between both sectors, suggesting that the Michigan reforms did in fact enable greater crossover across TPS and charter markets. These results provide evidence to policymakers about overall labor market reform effects for all public school teachers – whether TPS or charter.