From Journalist’s Resource:   How teachers unions affect school district spending, student achievement

Teachers holding picket signs.

Teachers with the Chicago Teachers Union hold picket signs in 2012. (Flickr/TMT-photos)


Denver public school teachers went on strike Feb. 11, for the first time in 25 years, to push for better pay. The teachers union in Oakland, California has announced plans to strike after failing to reach an agreement with the school district on higher wages, smaller class sizes and other issues. In January, teachers in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school district, went on strike for the first time in 30 years to force district leaders to work with their union to address some of the same concerns.

While many educators credit their unions for helping them secure higher salaries and better working conditions, union critics accuse these organizations of hurting students by shielding low-performing and problematic teachers from disciplinary action or dismissal. At the national and state levels, teachers unions have become a powerful force, influencing both legislation and elections.  

The two main teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, are among the biggest labor organizations in the United States. Together, they represent about 5 million employees, officials from the two organizations told Journalist’s Resource. 

Below, we’ve gathered a sampling of research that offers insights into the work of teachers unions, including their impact on teacher salaries, student achievement and teacher turnover.


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