Identity Crisis

Illustration by Stuart Bradford

A new strain of thinking within the teacher unions holds that collective bargaining can advance reform goals. Critics warn that this is simply a back door to tighter control over the educational enterprise.

Teacher unions, long both the whipping boys and the power brokers of the education wars, now promote themselves as key partners in reform. The idea is to use collective bargaining to force changes that will ultimately raise student achievement. In fact, several urban union locals, in Cincinnati, Denver, and Rochester, to name a few, have already agreed to reforms such as merit pay, peer review, and public school choice. Yet the unions are still widely regarded as anti-reform—as the chief opponents of any change that upsets the flow of resources to public schools and public employees. Critics warn that unions will agree to only those reforms that tighten their control over the teaching profession and the educational enterprise. Is it possible for unions to shed their adversarial, industrial-era approach in favor of collaboration and professionalism?

Last Updated


Notify Me When Education Next

Posts a Big Story

Business + Editorial Office

Program on Education Policy and Governance
Harvard Kennedy School
79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone (617) 496-5488
Fax (617) 496-4428

For subscription service to the printed journal
Phone (617) 496-5488

Copyright © 2024 President & Fellows of Harvard College