Graduation Year

Spring 2011

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Christopher Nadon

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© 2011 Angela Estrella-Lemus


It has been ingrained into the American consciousness that our public schools are failing and our students are underachieving. This is something we all know. What is less clear is why American schools are failing. Time and time again, we come back to teachers, who have been identified as the single greatest factor in determining the success of the student. Teachers can make the difference in the lives of students and help secure our economic future. Teachers unions speak for these teachers, thus, in our search for a scapegoat, teachers unions often rank at the top. Right or wrong, it is a serious accusation to say that teachers unions are responsible for the failure of the American education system. Teachers, and consequently teachers unions, have the power to greatly impact education reform.

After assessing the state of education in the United States and establishing teachers unions’ role in the bigger picture of education, I will first explore the source of teachers unions political power: their large membership and their money. Teachers unions are among the largest unions in the country and the NEA (National Education Association), specifically, is the highest political contributor of all public sector unions. To assess their political influence, I will show where and how they use their money with the intention of evaluating whether or not they overstep their boundaries as a typical labor union.

The next important variable to consider when evaluating the impact of teachers unions is their classification as a public sector union. Private and public sector unions operate under different sets of laws and thus have different rules and strategies for collective bargaining. I will examine how their public sector status impacts their influence on hotly contested education reform issues, such as teacher performance pay, teacher evaluations based on student achievement, school vouchers, and charter schools. What makes teachers unions different from other labor unions? And do these differences give teachers unions a detrimental amount of control over education reform?

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