Teacher Militancy, Activism, and School Reform

Edited by:
Diana D'Amico Pawlewicz, University of North Dakota

A volume in the series: Research in Educational Policy: Local, National, and Global Perspectives. Editor(s): Kenneth K. Wong, Brown University.

Published 2022

Teacher unions and their members have long stood as polarizing figures in a vast educational landscape. As in the Western films of the 1920s, policymakers, education reformers, and onlookers often assign union leaders and the teachers they represent either the white hats of heroes or the black hats of villains. Politicized efforts to reductively classify teacher unions as beneficial or dangerous have only served to obscure the extent to which labor militancy and teacher activism have become part and parcel of the American public school system and the primary mechanisms by which teachers’ voices are heard – and heeded – in the policy arena. Teacher unions have grown in tandem with and in response to the expansion of the school bureaucracy and the acceleration of accountability reforms, and teachers’ calls for recognition and reform are inseparable from broader movements for social change. Far more than either good or bad, teacher unions are the inevitable outgrowth of American public education as it stands today.

This book offers an interdisciplinary exploration of the state of modern teacher unions, the complex spaces they operate in, and the connections between militancy, activism, and school reform. Breaking free from the white hat/black hat dyad that has for so long colored the lenses we use to understand unions, the chapters of this book engage a set of fundamental questions: Where did the modern moment of militancy come from, and in what ways is it a continuation or a departure from the approaches of previous organized teachers?; What is at stake in modern expressions of militancy for teachers, communities, and schools?; Beyond the flashpoint of the walkout, what is the effect of teacher activism?

Introduction—Beyond the White Hat/Black Hat: Considering Teachers Unions, Public Schools, and American Society, Diana D’Amico Pawlewicz. PART I: MORE THAN PROLOGUE: LEARNING FROM THE PAST TO UNDERSTAND THE PRESENT. Defining and Defending Professionalism: A Long View of Teacher Unionism, Diana D’Amico Pawlewicz, Nick Juravich, and Jonna Perrillo. Black Educators in the Southern Freedom Struggle and its Implication for the “Red for Ed” Reform Movement, Jon N. Hale and Katherine F. Blanton. How Do Teachers’ Unions Affect Education Outcomes? Reviewing the Latest Research on the Rent-Seeking Debate, Joshua Cowen and Katharine O. Strunk. Educators’ Working Conditions Are Students’ Learning Conditions: Differences in the Literature With and for Contemporary Educator Movements, Erin Dyke. PART II: TEACHER VOICE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE. Who Speaks for Teachers? Teachers’ Voice and Teacher Unions in a New Era, Morgaen Donaldson, Jennie Weiner, and Julianna Kershen. A New Era in Conflict Over Education Policy: The 2012 Chicago Teachers Union Strike, Kate Phillippo, Melissa Fisher, Joseph Ferrare, and Paul Stromberg. Visions of Social Justice Teacher Unionism: An Analysis of Interviews With Social Justice Union Organizers Across Transnational Contexts, Grace Cornell Gonzales. Teachers as Political Actors: Social Justice Caucuses and the Fight to Transform Public Education, Chloe Asselin. PART III: NEW FRONTIERS IN TEACHER MILITANCY AND ACTIVISM. After the Vote: Unionization’s Impact on Chicago’s Charter Schools, David S. Woo and Bradley D. Marianno. “I Don’t Need Your Permission, I’m Just Walking Out”: Networked Teacher Activism and the #OklaEdWalkout, Marie K. Heath and Daniel G. Krutka. Traversing the Capitol, the Corner, and the Classroom: West Virginia Teachers Staking Their Claim, Audra Slocum and Malayna Bernstein, with Heather DeLuca-Nestor, Jacob Staggers, and Emily Tanzey. About the Contributors.