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Teacher Workforce

April 2019


What does the research say about states’ responses to teacher strikes and strike threats?


Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports and descriptive studies on states’ responses to teacher strikes and strike threats. For details on the databases and sources, keywords, and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

Burroughs, N. (2008). Arguments and evidence: The debate over collective bargaining’s role in public education. (Education Policy Brief). Bloomington, IN: Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, Indiana University. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The role of collective bargaining in K-12 education invokes sharply different perspectives and debate. Teachers and administrators bring profoundly different points of view to the discussion, creating a division which significantly colors conversations on school reform. School administrators and many educational reformers have generally been critical of the role of teacher’s unions in public education, contending that teacher collective bargaining agreements have blocked education reforms and increased the costs of running schools without resulting in greater educational performance. They argue that the mission of teacher’s unions is not student achievement, but benefits for its membership. Other critics suggest that teacher’s unions are wedded to an outdated model of education and that collective bargaining agreements must change to reflect new social and economic realities. Defenders of teacher’s unions respond that the costs associated with collective bargaining agreements come with substantial benefits, that higher teacher salaries and benefits and smaller class sizes have led to improved teacher quality and student achievement, lower levels of attrition and turnover, and that it is unclear whether, controlling for other factors, non-unionized schools deliver greater educational performance. The authors of this report discuss both sides of the debate to critically examine the empirical evidence on the direct and indirect effects of collective bargaining on public education.”

Henig, J. R., Lyon, M. A., & Anzia, S. F. (2019). Will unions shift their focus to the statehouse? Forum: After the teacher walkouts. Education Next, 19(1), 52–60. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Since the 1960s, teachers unions across the United States have used strikes or the threat of strikes to influence the terms of collective bargaining agreements with local school districts. In the spring of 2018, teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, and elsewhere changed their tack, staging walkouts designed to secure salary hikes and increased school funding from state legislatures. Will teachers unions increasingly shift their focus away from local districts and toward state policymakers? And how will unions adapt, now that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ‘Janus v. AFSCME’ decision has banned agency fees for teachers who decline to join? Jeffrey R. Henig and Melissa Arnold Lyon of Columbia University’s Teachers College discuss possible union comeback strategies post-’Janus,’ while Sarah F. Anzia of the University of California, Berkeley, foresees geographical differences in union tactics.”

Jacoby, D. F., & Nitta, K. (2012). The Bellevue teachers strike and its implications for the future of postindustrial reform unionism. Educational Policy, 26(4), 533–563. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Striking for nine days in 2008, teachers in Bellevue carved a distinctive path through the contradictory movements for professional reform unionism and national accountability. In addition to compensation, Bellevue’s teachers struck over the top-down prescriptive management epitomized by the Gates Foundation supported ‘Curriculum Web.’ Where district administrators envisioned the web as a community resource, teachers complained that its detailed daily lesson plans hamstrung their ability to teach effectively. Teachers returned to work only when a memorandum of understanding was signed recognizing their authority to deviate from the district’s web-based curriculum. To achieve reform minded goals, teachers relied upon traditional union militancy.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Shober, A. F. (2012). Governors make the grade: Growing gubernatorial influence in state education policy. Peabody Journal of Education, 87(5), 559–575. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Since the 1970s, American governors have become increasingly active in education politics. Where they once told state education chiefs to ‘make me the best education governor ever,’ they now demand control of state boards of education, push for state control of school funding, and urge statewide standards for teacher evaluation. This article surveys the growth of gubernatorial interest in education in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida. It argues that sustained financial pressure on state budgets and widespread calls for educational equity have undercut both school districts and legislatures as effective arbiters of education policy. These twin pressures have forced governors, who have a statewide political constituency and are responsible for the state budget, to accept greater control over education policy.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Shuffelton, A. B. (2014). The Chicago teachers strike and its public. Education and Culture, 30(2), 21–33. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This article considers the 2012 Chicago Teachers Strike in light of John Dewey’s ‘The Public and Its Problems.’ It engages Dewey’s conceptualization of practical reason to challenge the educational reform movement’s commitment to technocratic decision-making.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Teacher strikes

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched IES and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2004 to present, were included in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-;experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Midwest) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.