Research Professor, Center on Reinventing Public Education, University of Washington
A large literature on teacher collective bargaining describes the potential influence of provisions in teacher union contracts, but little is known about the determinants of these provisions. Using a unique dataset of every active teacher collective bargaining agreement in Washington state, we first estimate the restrictiveness of each contract in the state and then estimate spatial lag models to explore whether the relationship between the restrictiveness of a bargained contract in one district and the restrictiveness of contracts in nearby districts. Using various measures of geographic and institutional proximity, we find that we find that spatial relationships play a major role in determining bargaining outcomes. But we find that these spatial relationships are actually driven by two "institutional bargaining structures": Education Service Districts (ESDs), which support school districts, and Uniserv councils, which determine who is bargaining on behalf of local teachers’ unions. This suggests that the influence of geographic distance found in previous studies of teacher wages may simply reflect the influence of these bargaining structures.