Maryland teachers unions have strong "perceived influence," report finds

Fordham Institute assessing teacher union strength ranks state 23rd in the nation

November 07, 2012|Erica L. Green

In an examination of how strong teachers unions are across the nation, Maryland ranked 23rd, which is considered "average" when stacked against 50 states and Washington, D.C.,  but the state's bargaining units apparently have a strong "perceived influence."

In a report recently released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education policy think-tank, researchers conducted a state-by-state analysis of teacher union activity across the country.

In state-specific profiles, the authors of the report looked at the following indicators: resources and membership, political involvement, scope of bargaining, and state policies, and perceived influence.

The report found that in Maryland, teachers had modest financial resources, a minimal financial stake in political campaigns, a wide scope in bargaining, and operate with little state interference.

But, when it came to perceived influence, Dara Zeehandelaar, one of the report's authors, said that unions--particularly the Baltimore Teachers Union--have a strong voice in policy dialogue, though most of the time behind the scenes.

“In the public eye, the union is not particularly strong and not particularly weak, but stakeholders say they are very influential in the state," Zeehandelaar said. "Which means they exert power and influence that we couldn’t see. If we could be a fly on the wall in the governor’s office and in the union’s office, we’d love that, but we can’t."

Zeehandelaar said the report showed that the state's unions could afford to be more transparent so that the influence can empower their memberships. 

“You have to make sure that influence is transparent in many ways, and that their activities are in line with what their membership wants," she said. “We’re hoping that this report brings the issue to the forefront.”

You can read the full report here.

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