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Are Teachers' Unions Really to Blame? Collective Bargaining Agreements and Their Relationships with District Resource Allocation and Student Performance in California


  • Katharine O. Strunk

    () (Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California, Los Angeles)


Increased spending and decreased student performance have been attributed in part to teachers' unions and to the collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) they negotiate with school boards. However, only recently have researchers begun to examine impacts of specific aspects of CBAs on student and district outcomes. This article uses a unique measure of contract restrictiveness generated through the use of a partial independence item response model to examine the relationships between CBA strength and district spending on multiple areas and district-level student performance in California. I find that districts with more restrictive contracts have higher spending overall, but that this spending appears not to be driven by greater compensation for teachers but by greater expenditures on administrators' compensation and instruction-related spending. Although districts with stronger CBAs spend more overall and on these categories, they spend less on books and supplies and on school board–related expenditures. In addition, I find that contract restrictiveness is associated with lower average student performance, although not with decreased achievement growth. © 2011 Association for Education Finance and Policy

Suggested Citation

  • Katharine O. Strunk, 2011. "Are Teachers' Unions Really to Blame? Collective Bargaining Agreements and Their Relationships with District Resource Allocation and Student Performance in California," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 6(3), pages 354-398, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:edfpol:v:6:y:2011:i:3:p:354-398

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:bla:coecpo:v:36:y:2018:i:1:p:93-115 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Cowen, Joshua M. & Strunk, Katharine O., 2015. "The impact of teachers’ unions on educational outcomes: What we know and what we need to learn," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 208-223.
    3. Lott, Johnathan & Kenny, Lawrence W., 2013. "State teacher union strength and student achievement," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 93-103.

    More about this item


    teachers' unions; collective bargaining agreements; school district spending; district resource allocation; student performance;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid


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