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School Business Affairs


Recent legislation raised questions about the status of teachers unions and public-sector collective bargaining. Although the changes in Florida, Idaho, and Tennessee occurred with a minimum of disruption, the same was not true in Ohio and Wisconsin. Voters in Ohio repudiated a law that would have placed significant limits on the rights of public employees to bargain collectively (McNeil 2011a). Conversely, voters in Wisconsin defeated a recall election intended to remove the governor and legislators who acted to curtail the bargaining power of teachers unions (Stein 2012).

Organized labor and collective bargaining in education have grown to the point at which three out of four public school teachers in the United States are represented by a union or a professional association (National Center for Educational Statistics, n.d.). The situation in public education stands in stark contrast to what is taking place in the private sector, where fewer than 7% of workers belong to unions, one-fi fth of membership at its height in the mid-1950s (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2011). In light of the rising costs associated with salaries, benefits, and pensions gained through bargaining, it appears that reforms are needed to help school boards and states keep their budgets in order.

Insofar as the conflict between public-sector unions and their employers in Wisconsin and Ohio, in particular, generated controversy over teacher bargaining, these states are the focal point of this column. Because the status of bargaining will likely remain in a state of flux, this column is an initial attempt to examine a reform that will likely play out for some time to come.

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This article originally appeared in the September 2012 School Business Affairs magazine and is reprinted with permission of the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO). The text herein does not necessarily represent the views or policies of ASBO International, and use of this imprint does not imply any endorsement or recognition by ASBO International and its officers or affiliates. Any additional re-purposing or reprint of this article in this or any other medium is restricted without prior written consent.

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Association of School Business Officials





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Reston, VA



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