Schirmer’s research sits at the intersections of the sociology of education, labor studies, and history. Her research investigates the contradictory capacities of social movements – particularly teachers’ unions – to shape institutions, identities, and ideas. Her scholarly endeavors examine both the conservative and the progressive social movements rooted in public education.
Schirmer’s dissertation explores the surprising and under-examined role of teachers’ unions in the ascent of conservative education movements over the past sixty years– as well as their vital leadership in recent educational justice struggles in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Titled From fracture to fight: teachers’ unions and the contest of public education in Milwaukee, WI, 1963-2011, this study explores the capacity of teachers’ unions to shape ideas about public education and their role in the changing political economy.
Schirmer's research has been supported by the Avril S. Barr dissertation fellowship, Tasha B. Morgridge dissertation fellowship and Albert Shanker Educational Research fellowship. Her research was awarded the "New Generation" award by the United Association of Labor Education as well as a Labor Research Action Network "New Scholars" research grant.
The 1974 Hortonville, Wisconsin teacher’s strike and the rise of neoliberalism
How the Right Wins at the Local Level
An essay review of Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in chains: The deep history of the Radical Right’s stealth plan for America