Policy brief

Teacher Employment and Collective Bargaining Laws in California

Structuring School District Discretion over Teacher Employment
William S. Koski
Stanford University
Aaron Tang
University of California, Davis, School of Law


A new PACE policy brief, by William S. Koski, Professor of Law and Director of the Youth and Education Law Project at Stanford University and Aaron Tang law student at Stanford Law School and former teacher in St. Louis, Missouri, examines teacher employment and collective bargaining laws in California. There is broad agreement that teacher quality is related to student achievement, but there is far less agreement about the degree to which school districts and administrators are constrained in making policies to improve teacher quality that might also affect teacher employment and working conditions. Conventional wisdom holds that state law and the collective bargaining agreements governed by state law often hamper districts’ discretion over teacher hiring, firing, evaluation, compensation, and assignment. Although California collective bargaining agreements have received some attention from researchers we know far less about whether, and to what extent, California law constrains or facilitates district-level discretion over teacher employment policies and practices. This policy brief examines that issue. Koski and Tang focus on California and examine the extent to which the legal structure governing the employment and collective bargaining relationship between school districts and teachers constrains administrative and school board decision-making. Their strategy is to classify various aspects of the teacher-school district employment relationship into one of four categories. These categories reflect the level of discretion that districts enjoy over any given employment-related condition. They then analyze the teacher employment and collective bargaining laws in four other large and diverse states using that same four-tiered analytic framework. The authors conclude that California statutory law regarding teacher employment and collective bargaining, although quite similar to the law in those states, is somewhat more constraining of administrative decision-making in teacher employment matters. Whether this is helpful or harmful to students, they conclude, is entirely another question.

Suggested citationKoski, W. S., & Tang, A. (2011, February). Teacher employment and collective bargaining laws in California: Structuring school district discretion over teacher employment [Policy brief]. Policy Analysis for California Education. https://edpolicyinca.org/publications/teacher-employment-and-collective-bargaining-laws-california-structuring-school