How Strong Are U.S. Teacher Unions?

The debate over whether teachers unions help or halt education reform has caused much controversy among educators, parents, and communities as a whole. Critics are up in arms over the alleged hold unions have on education policy—specifically regarding how difficult it is to fire an ineffective tenured teacher. Proponents of the unions argue that they protect teachers’ rights, support professionalism, and aren’t against reform.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute took an in-depth look at the role unions play in each state. The study ranks teacher unions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on resources and membership, involvement in politics, scope of bargaining, state policies, and perceived influence.

The five strongest are: 1. Hawaii, 2. Oregon, 3. Montana, 4. Pennsylvania and 5. Rhode Island. The five weakest are: 1. Arizona, 2. Florida, 3. South Carolina, 4. Arkansas and 5. Virginia.

Click here for the full state-by-state report.

This timely study represents the most comprehensive analysis of American teacher unions’ strength ever conducted, ranking all fifty states and the District of Columbia according to the power and influence of their state-level unions. To assess union strength, the Fordham Institute and Education Reform Now examined thirty-seven different variables across five realms (see below map):

Click on map for larger view

The study analyzed factors ranging from union membership and revenue to state bargaining laws to campaign contributions, and included such measures as the alignment between specific state policies and traditional union interests and a unique stakeholder survey. The report sorts the fifty-one jurisdictions into five tiers, ranking their teacher unions from strongest to weakest and providing in-depth profiles of each.