Changing Collective Bargaining Agreements in California Public Schools: Why do Districts Implement Restrictive Contracts, and How do They Impact Student Achievement?
Katharine O. Strunk

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Southern California

Primary Discipline

Educational Policy
Recent media and policy attention regarding public education has focused to a great extent on teachers’ unions and the collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) they negotiate with district administrations. Among other things, teachers’ unions have been accused of using their right to negotiate contracts to block educational reforms and harm student achievement. Although research confirms that many CBAs may indeed constrain district administrators from implementing some reforms, there is no empirical evidence to support the argument that restrictive contracts cause decreases in student achievement. Moreover, there is little recent empirical research that explores why unions and district administrations negotiate such contracts. Research that explores these relationships has been limited due to the reliance on a single year of data from CBAs. Using a unique self-collected dataset of California school district contracts, this study will be the first to utilize data garnered from contracts over time to provide empirical evidence that addresses questions regarding the relationships between contract restrictiveness, district characteristics, and student achievement. Specifically, I ask: (1) Are CBAs growing more or less restrictive over time?; (2) What district characteristics are associated with the implementation of more or less restrictive contracts and specific provisions?; and (3) What is the relationship between the changes in CBA restrictiveness or provisions and student achievement? This line of questioning will not only enable a greater understanding of CBAs and the relationships between changes in CBAs and important district characteristics and outcomes, but also will begin to unpack the directionality of the relationship between district characteristics and contract restrictiveness.
About Katharine O. Strunk

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