Panel: New Evidence on the Effects of Teachers' Unions on Student Outcomes, Teacher Labor Markets, and the Allocation of School Resources

Thursday, November 2, 2017: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Comiskey (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Joshua Hyman, University of Connecticut
Panel Chairs:  Katharine Strunk, University of Southern California
Discussants:  Joshua Cowen, Michigan State University and Elizabeth Cascio, Dartmouth College

Teachers' Union Contracts and the Productive Efficiency of School Districts: Longitudinal Evidence from California
Katharine Strunk, Bradley Marianno and Paul Bruno, University of Southern California

School Finance Reforms, Teachers' Unions, and the Allocation of School Resources
Eric Brunner, Joshua Hyman and Andrew Ju, University of Connecticut

The Long-Run Effects of Teacher Collective Bargaining
Michael Lovenheim and Alexander Willen, Cornell University

Teacher collective bargaining is one of the most widespread and controversial aspects of the U.S. education system. While most teachers in the United States are covered by a collectively-bargained contract, several states have recently sought to weaken teachers’ union power. For example, in 2011 both Indiana and Wisconsin passed legislation reducing teachers’ ability to bargain with school districts, and in 2012 Michigan passed a public employee right-to-work law that limited teacher union negotiating power. In 2014, a court ruling in California argued that the tenure and teacher retention policies that are a main focus of collective bargaining violated the constitutionally-guaranteed right to an adequate education for each child in California. These state actions have reignited a debate over the role of teachers’ unions and teacher collective bargaining in the US education system.

In spite of this renewed concern over the role of teachers’ unions, there is relatively little rigorous empirical evidence on the effects of teachers’ unions, and what research there is reaches mixed conclusions with regards to the effects of teacher unionization and collective bargaining (e.g., Hoxby 1996; Lovenheim 2009; Strunk 2011; Fransden 2016). This session for the Association of Public Policy and Management 39th Annual Fall Conference includes four new studies that bring novel and rigorous evidence to the debate over the effects of teachers’ unions on student outcomes, teacher labor markets, and the allocation of school resources.

The first two papers provide new evidence on the effects of teachers’ unions in Tennessee and California. The first paper by Laura Quinby examines the effects of the prohibition of collective bargaining rights in Tennessee in 2011 on the teacher labor market. The second paper by Katharine Strunk, Bradley Marianno, and Paul Bruno examines the effects of collective bargaining agreement strength on school districts’ allocation of resources and efficiency of spending. The second pair of papers examine effects nationally: The third paper by Eric Brunner, Joshua Hyman, and Andrew Ju examines how teachers’ unions influenced the change in the allocation of school resources brought about by school finance reforms during the past thirty years. Finally, the fourth paper by Michael Lovenheim and Alexander Willen provides the first empirical evidence on the effects of teacher collective bargaining on students’ long-run labor market outcomes.

The four papers in this session tackle the issue of teachers’ unions and their effects from very different methodological perspectives and in a variety of local, state and national policy settings. Together with the session chair and discussants, the participants represent a mix of experts on teachers’ unions and education policy from a wide variety of disciplines, including education, public policy, political science, and economics. In addition, every paper in the session includes at least one author who is a graduate student. This session brings together researchers from these different disciplines and levels of experience to include some of the most promising new research to inform the controversial debate over the effects of teachers’ unions and collective bargaining in the US education system.

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