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Restricting Teacher Collective Bargaining in Indiana: Patterns and Potential Consequences Open Access

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In 2011, Indiana enacted Public Law 48-2011 restricting collective bargaining for teachers. This law restricted teacher contracts to a small number of provisions and prohibited many common items including class size or school-day length. All contracts entered after June 30, 2011 had to comply with the restrictions; however some districts entered new agreements before this deadline, effectively delaying the date by which they would need to comply. Around this same time, Indiana was experiencing a drop in teacher retention across the state, leading to potential staffing shortfalls. Grounded in policy implementation, collective bargaining, and teacher turnover research, this study exploited staggered implementation of Public Law 48-2011 to examine the plausibility of a relationship between this policy change and the drop in teacher retention. The study looked at the following three elements: 1) the response of districts vis-à-vis collective bargaining in the interval between passage and implementation deadline; 2) the extent to which contracts entered after the deadline differed in terms of strength in the union’s favor from contracts entered before implementation; and 3) the extent to which compliance with the restrictions correlated with teacher retention rates. Several interesting findings are drawn from this study. First, many districts behaved as expected with regard to entering a new agreement before the deadline, but the probability was higher for some districts. Second, while the contracts entered before the law differed significantly from those entered afterward, there were no significant patterns in the magnitude of change across district groupings that the study utilized. Third, teacher retention declined in most districts over the examined time-period, but I found that districts entering a Post-Law contract had a lower rate of teacher retention. Collectively, these findings suggest that while there were substantive changes to contracts entered before and after the law, districts’ initial responses did not explain variation in the size of that change. Further, there appears to be a correlational link between teacher attrition and adoption of a post-law contract. This study was not designed to draw causal links between the law and teacher turnover, however results from the study lend plausibility that a relationship exists.

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