Political Influence of Teachers' Unions in State Government

Open Access
Rydzewski, Katrina Elizabeth
Area of Honors:
Political Science
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • David Lynn Lowery, Thesis Supervisor
  • Michael Barth Berkman, Honors Advisor
  • Teachers' unions
  • political power
  • political influence
  • interest group influence
  • State government
Recent events involving teachers’ union strikes across the country have gained the national spotlight and have raised important questions as to the political influence of these groups. Currently, there is little empirical analysis concerning the level of influence they possess or on the factors that contribute to this influence. There is even less empirical evidence concerning state governments. Most education policies are put in place at this level of government, which is also where there exists a very high level of unionization. This combination provides potential for teachers’ unions to hold high levels of political influence. In answer to the question of why variation influence among states exists, I propose that state situational factors affect the level of political power, including the political and legal environments, state wealth, urbanization level, and region of the country. Each state situational factor is tested for association with a measure of influence accounting for state government alignment with teacher union goals in the areas of compensation and education funding, the frequency with which education bills are proposed, and the level of teachers’ union political involvement. Through regression analysis, the socioeconomic variables seemed most influential, though not necessarily in the expected manner.