Teachers' Unions and Education ReformLesley Lavery
Teachers’ unions are the organizations responsible for safeguarding the conditions of teachers’ employment. Union supporters claim strong synergies between teachers’ interests and students’ interests, but critics of unions insist that the stance of teachers in collective bargaining may disadvantage students as unions reduce the power of administrators to manage, remove, reward or retain excellent teachers.
In A Collective Pursuit, Lesley Lavery unpacks how teachers’ unions today are fighting for contracts that allow them to earn a decent living and build “schools all students deserve.” She explains the form and function of the nation’s largest teachers’ unions. Lavery then explores unionization campaigns in the Twin Cities charter schools. A Collective Pursuit also examines teacher strikes and contract negotiations, school finance and finance reform, and district and union attempts to address racial achievement gaps, to provide a context for understanding the economic, political, and demographic forces that inspire teachers to improve conditions for students.
A Collective Pursuit emphasizes that while teachers’ unions serve a traditional, economic role, they also provide a vast array of valuable services to students, educators, parents, and community members.
“ In A Collective Pursuit , Lesley Lavery dismantles the dubious but durable narrative that teachers’ unions are selfish and anachronistic. Using instructive case studies from Minnesota, she explains why charter school teachers are seeking greater voice through a union and why traditional public school teachers are bargaining for the common good. Through engaging stories, Lavery lays out a powerful vision for how teachers and their unions can strengthen our democracy and better help students succeed.”—Richard D. Kahlenberg, Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation, and author of Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race, and Democracy
“In this exceptionally well-written book, Lavery provides a comprehensive overview of contemporary teachers’ unions. Using case studies from the Twin Cities that richly document the unionization process of charter schools in that region, Lavery sheds light on the motivations of teachers and their dedication to the students they educate. Her findings are relevant and generalizable to trends across the nation. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding urban education and the role of unionization in contemporary urban America.”—Stefanie Chambers, Professor and Chair of Political Science, Trinity College, and author of Mayors and Schools: Minority Voices and Democratic Tensions in Urban Education and Somalis in the Twin Cities and Columbus: Immigrant Incorporation in New Destinations
"(P)rovocative.... (T)he purpose of this book is to push against the current of today’s education reform movement.... This book uses activism by teachers, some in charter schools and some in traditional public schools, to show how responsibility for schooling Minnesotans is attributed and apportioned among different actors. Its demonstration of the ways that teachers have sought to improve their working conditions—their students’ learning conditions, as they rightfully insist—eloquently illustrates the author’s central message about education: it is a collective pursuit."
"Lavery’s focus on charter unionization is an important contribution that can help push scholars to look beyond the effects of unions in traditional district-run schools…. Lavery’s case studies are certainly illuminating…. a series of exceptionally well-written chapters that run the gamut from teacher strikes to school finance reform to unions’ increasing efforts to address opportunity gaps, Lavery sheds light on the array of valuable services that she says unions have increasingly provided to students, parents, and community members."
—Perspective on Politics
"A Collective Pursuit arrives at a fitting moment. Lavery presents a deeply contextualized analysis of the teachers’ union landscape in her native Minnesota. Through detailed case studies, she pokes some necessary holes in popular narratives about teachers’ unions—namely, that teachers’ collective pursuits can be largely chalked up to selfish grousing for higher wages.... A Collective Pursuit will prove a helpful volume for those looking to expand their understanding of unions’ evolving work and priorities."
—Teachers College Record