Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




There is an almost symbiotic relationship between the Democratic Party and labor unions. Labor unions emerged as the largest donors and staunchest organizers for Democrats. This is all especially true for teachers’ unions. The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association represent the largest organizational donors to the Democratic Party. Democrats on the national stage compete fiercely for these two organization’s endorsement. So, if teachers’ unions represent such an important donor and organizing base for Democrats how can we explain Democratic politics on education? Race to the Top was highly unpopular with unions and supported by Democrats. Liberal stalwarts were crucial in cultivating No Child Left Behind. Secretaries of Education like Arne Duncan and Betsy DeVos support surprisingly similar education agendas despite their opposite party affiliations. Democrats from across the country have endorsed merit pay, charter school expansion, and standards-based teacher assessments. Teachers’ unions vigorously oppose all of these policies. Despite increased polarization among the parties, there is still some level of policy convergence on education. Using a historical analysis, this thesis will demonstrate how Democrats and Republicans have such similar education policy agendas, and how Democrats feel free to support policies opposed by some of their most critical support.

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Creative Commons License
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