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ERIC Number: ED498038
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 48
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
A Better Bargain: Overhauling Teacher Collective Bargaining for the 21st Century
Hess, Frederick M.; West, Martin R.
Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University
In this paper, the authors argue that at a time when disappointing student performance, stark achievement gaps, and an ever-"flattening" world call for retooling American schools for the 21st century, the most daunting impediments to doing so are the teacher collective bargaining agreements that regulate virtually all aspects of school district operations. They believe that these agreements are a harmful anachronism in today's K-12 education system, where effective teachers are demanding to be treated as respected professionals and forward thinking leaders are working to transform schools into nimble organizations focused on student learning. The authors propose that superintendents and school boards chart a new course by working with union leaders to modify collective bargaining agreements on five key fronts: (1) Teacher pay should reflect the scarcity and value of teachers' skills, the difficulty of their assignments, the extent of their responsibilities, and the caliber of their work; (2) Pension and health benefits should resemble those offered by other organizations competing for college-educated professionals, which will entail shifting from industrial-era defined-benefit plans to defined-contribution plans better suited to the new economy and a professional workforce; (3) Tenure should be eliminated from K-12 schooling or, at a minimum, contracts and state laws should be modified to enable management to more readily remove ineffective educators; (4) Personnel should be assigned to schools on the basis of educational need rather than seniority; and (5) Work rules should be weeded out of contracts, and contracts should explicitly define managerial prerogatives. To do this, they must commit themselves to the strategies of accountability, choice and competition, and tough-minded governance. (Contains 131 footnotes.) [This report was produced in part by the Program on Education Policy & Governance, Harvard University.]
Program on Education Policy and Governance. Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government, 79 John F. Kennedy Street, Taubman 304, Cambridge, MA 02138. Tel: 617-495-7976; Fax: 617-496-4428; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Opinion Papers
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: American Enterprise Inst. for Public Policy Research, Washington, DC.; Brookings Institution, Washington, DC.