What Role Does Location Play in Teacher Collective Bargaining?

[We are pleased to welcome Lesley Lavery of Macalester College. Lesley recently published an article in ILR Review with co-authors Dan Goldhaber and Roddy Theobald, entitled “My End of the Bargain: Are There Cross-District Effects in Teacher Contract Provisions?”]Teacher_of_the_year_uses_initiative,_technology-fueled_lessons_140310-M-IY869-611

Teacher collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) cover a wide array of school district rules and regulations that govern everything from hiring and compensation, to the policies that determine teacher transfers, evaluation, and termination. In this paper we investigate the role spatial relationships between school districts and teachers’ unions play in determining which specific provisions appear in CBAs.  We find that bargaining outcomes in nearby districts have a strong, positive effect an individual district’s bargaining outcomes and that regional bargaining structures like Education Service Districts (representing school districts) and Uniservs (representing teachers’ unions) largely drive these outcomes.

We were somewhat surprised by these findings. Though we were not shocked to find that geographically proximate districts bargain similar agreements, we did not ILR_72ppiRGB_powerpointnecessarily expect to find such a pronounced role for Education Service Districts and Uniserv Councils given the minor (or perhaps nonexistent) role these institutions play in public debate.

This is the first paper in a larger project that investigates the role collective bargaining agreements play in the uneven distribution of teacher quality. In “Uneven Playing Field” we model the distribution of both teacher inputs (e.g., experience and credentials) and outputs (e.g., estimates of performance/ effectiveness) across a variety of indicators of student disadvantage (free/reduced lunch status, underrepresented minority, and low prior academic performance) to demonstrate that no matter how you cut it, disadvantaged students are less likely to experience highly qualified teachers.

Then, in “Inconvenient Truth?” we explore whether and how patterns of teacher mobility (movements that lead to static measures of distribution) differ in districts with different collective bargaining agreement (CBA) transfer provisions.  We find that seniority transfer provisions have differential impacts on the distributions of teacher experience and effectiveness which suggests that policymakers may have to careful consider and weigh their ultimate goals before taking a stand on unions and CBAs.

The abstract:

A large literature on teacher collective bargaining describes the potential influence of the provisions in collectively bargained teacher union contracts on teachers and student achievement, but little is known about what influences the provisions that end up in these contracts. Using a unique data set made up of every active teacher collective bargaining agreement in Washington State, the authors estimate spatial lag models to explore the relationship between the restrictiveness of a bargained contract in one district and the restrictiveness of contracts in nearby districts. Employing various measures of geographic and institutional proximity, they find that spatial relationships play a major role in determining bargaining outcomes. These spatial relationships, however, are actually driven by two “institutional bargaining structures”: education service districts (ESDs), which support school districts, and UniServ councils, which determine who is bargaining on behalf of local teachers’ unions. This finding suggests that the influence of geographic distance found in previous studies of teacher wages may simply reflect the influence of these bargaining structures.

You can read “My End of the Bargain: Are There Cross-District Effects in Teacher Contract Provisions?” from ILR Review free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research from ILR ReviewClick here to sign up for e-alerts!


Lesley LaveryLesley Lavery’s interests include American politics, political behavior, civic engagement and public policy. Her scholarship focuses specifically on the ways in which policy may influence political engagement and participation.  Using No Child Left Behind as a lens, she recently examined parents’ views on schools, education policy and government, adding to a growing body research that suggest that public policies shape citizens beliefs about their place in and value to society.  Her recent work appears in Politics and PolicyEducational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, and the Economics of Education Review.

goldhaberDan Goldhaber is the Director of the Center for Education Data & Research and a Professor in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell. He is also the Director of the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) and a Vice-President at American Institutes of Research (AIR). Dan’s work focuses on issues of educational productivity and reform at the K-12 level, the broad array of human capital policies that influence the composition, distribution, and quality of teachers in the workforce, and connections between students’ K-12 experiences andpostsecondary outcomes. Topics of published work in this area include studies of the stability of value-added measures of teachers, the effects of teacher qualifications and quality on student achievement, and the impact of teacher pay structure and licensure on the teacher labor market. Previous work has covered topics such as the relative efficiency of public and private schools, and the effects of accountability systems and market competition on K-12 schooling.

Roddy Theobald is a Research Assistant at the Center for Education Data and Research and PhD candidate in Statistics at the University of Washington. He is a former 7th-grade math teacher and PhD student in statistics at the University of Washington. His research at CEDR combines his interest in teaching and public education with his current training as a statistician by applying statistical methodology to problems like teacher evaluation and layoffs.

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