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Pandemic memoranda: how school district and teachers' union administrators modified collective bargaining agreements during the COVID-19 pandemic

Bradley D. Marianno (College of Education, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA)
Annie A. Hemphill (Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 5 September 2023

Issue publication date: 3 November 2023

63

Abstract

Purpose

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted changes to the terms and conditions of teachers' employment (e.g. working conditions), leading school districts to renegotiate collective bargaining agreements with teachers' unions. However, limited research has examined how these negotiations occur in times of crisis. This study aims to analyze how school district and teachers' union administrators adapted workplace policies to meet staff and student needs during the COVID-19 pandemic by using a panel dataset of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) negotiated in 187 large US school districts.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors used the partial independence item response method to estimate MOU restrictiveness measures that captured the extent to which MOUs limited school administrator autonomy in setting the terms and conditions of teachers' employment. Descriptive analyses and ordinary least squares regression models showed how the scope of collective bargaining negotiations expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how restrictiveness varied across school districts based on district and union characteristics.

Findings

Results showed that school district and teachers' union administrators increased restrictions on school administrator autonomy in the spring of 2020, but these restrictions decreased by fall 2021. The level of restrictions agreed upon varied based on the strength of teachers' unions and political partisanship of school districts. The COVID-19 pandemic led to an expansion of collective bargaining negotiations to include previously unconsidered topics such as employee and student health and remote instruction.

Originality/value

This study is one of the first to examine the modifications made to collective bargaining agreements during times of crisis by school district and teachers' union administrators. The findings suggest that there were considerable changes to the terms and conditions of teachers' employment during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the strength of teachers' unions and political partisanship were associated with negotiation outcomes.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Since acceptance of this article, the following author have updated their affiliations: Annie A. Hemphill is at the Education Northwest in Portland, OR.

Citation

Marianno, B.D. and Hemphill, A.A. (2023), "Pandemic memoranda: how school district and teachers' union administrators modified collective bargaining agreements during the COVID-19 pandemic", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 61 No. 6, pp. 604-622. https://doi.org/10.1108/JEA-07-2022-0096

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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