Between old and new unionism: Race, professionalism, and resistance in a district of market reforms




professionalism, teacher unions, resistance, neoliberalism, market reform


This article centers a group of teachers who participated in a multi-day strike and a statewide walkout in Colorado. We examine whether their experience with contention signaled important shifts in views of market-based educational policies, teacher professionalism and the role of unions. Qualitative methods and critical theories of educational policy guided the research design and analysis of data. Findings include divergent experiences with contention among teachers, shaped by race and racism, and enduring ideas of professionalism tied to hierarchies of class and gender. These tensions complicated coherent interpretations and critiques of market policies and strained solidarity for sustained resistance. We discuss the implications of findings for efforts to shift traditional teacher unions toward expansive ideas of professionalism premised on anti-racism, collective action, and social justice for and with communities of color.


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Author Biographies

Erin Kurtz, University of Colorado Boulder

Erin Kurtz is a PhD candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder in both educational foundations, policy and practice and teacher learning, research and practice. Her research focuses on teacher organizing and the dynamic interplay between teacher unionism, teacher professionalism and market-based education policies. Erin is a former middle school teacher and union leader.

Terrenda White, University of Colorado Boulder

Terrenda White is an associate professor in educational foundations, policy, and practice at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research focuses on market-based education reforms in urban communities, including its impact on recruitment and retention of teachers of color, teacher autonomy and identity, and teachers’ classroom practices. Her current work examines grassroots resistance and teacher organizing for equitable policies in schools that serve communities of color. Terrenda is a former elementary school teacher and earned her PhD in sociology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City.




How to Cite

Kurtz, E., & White, T. (2022). Between old and new unionism: Race, professionalism, and resistance in a district of market reforms. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 30, (107).



Teachers and Educational Policy: Markets, Populism, and Im/Possibilities for Resistance