Labor and Learning: Analyzing Teacher Strikes and Their Impacts on Students and Communities, 2007-Present
Melissa Lyon

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University at Albany

Primary Discipline

Educational Policy
Over the past five years, educators have increasingly taken to the streets to rally for greater funding, higher salaries, and improved working conditions within the public education system. Indeed, incidents of teacher strikes between 2018-2022 increased roughly six-fold relative to the decade prior. Strikes are costly. They are dramatic events that require substantial organizational and material resources, and they lead to school closures that may disrupt student learning. Yet, we do not know how strikes affect educational outcomes, let alone politics more broadly. In this proposed project, I will use a first-of-its kind, hand-collected database of over 700 strikes over the past 15 years to describe the landscape of teacher strikes, explore their causes, and estimate their impacts on student academic achievement and inequality, school conditions, and political engagement within local communities. In addition to these empirical contributions, I also will contribute to our theoretical understanding of teachers’ unions. I move beyond the common ‘are unions good or bad’ frame to consider the possibility of nuanced implications of strikes for educational and societal inequalities as a result of union political advocacy, alliances with other labor unions, and other activities that represent teachers’ interests while simultaneously supporting—or conflicting with—the broader public good.
About Melissa Lyon
Lyon, Meliss
Melissa Arnold Lyon is an assistant professor of public policy at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the University at Albany. Melissa studies the political economy of education policy, focusing on inequality, governance, and teacher politics and policy. She's interested in how political structures shape and get shaped by the incentives and behaviors of market actors, and conversely how economic inequalities shape the politics of education and education governance. Her current work centers around teacher labor, labor politics, and shifts in education governance (e.g., state takeover). Her research has been published in journals including Educational Researcher, Journal of Human Resources, The Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, Teachers College Record, Political Behavior, Economics of Education Review, and Policy Studies Journal. Melissa received her Ph.D. in politics and education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to graduate school, she was a teacher in Houston, Texas.

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