There are plenty of controversial topics in education policy, but perhaps none draws as much heat as the role of teachers unions. In a recent interview, New Jersey governor and Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie said that the American Federation of Teachers deserved a “punch in the face,” calling it the “single most destructive force in public education in America.”

There’s no doubt that public education is among the most unionized industries in the United States, with more than 60 percent of teachers working under a union contract. But is there evidence to suggest that teachers unions are an obstacle to school improvement? Or are they instead a positive force, helping to recruit and retain a more effective teaching workforce?

In this episode of the EdNext podcast, Marty West, executive editor of Education Next, talks with Michael Lovenheim, associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University. Along with Alexander Willen, Mike is the author of a new study in the latest issue of Education Next with the title “”A Bad Bargain: How teacher collective bargaining affects students’ employment and earnings later in life.”

As the title of the article suggests, Lovenheim and Willen find that the adoption of state laws requiring school districts to bargain with teachers unions has not been a positive development for American students.


The EdNext Podcast is available on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher and here every Wednesday.

Last updated January 6, 2016