Arguably, one of the biggest education stories of 2018 has been the protests over low teacher pay. Since late February, thousands of teachers have organized strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado, and Arizona—all states that pay teachers far less than the national average salary.
Here’s a brief overview and a compendium of some great articles that take a look at the education labor movements emerging across the country.
From Oklahoma, POLITICO’s Caitlin Emma in her April 12 article Teachers Are Going on Strike in Trump’s America writes “While West Virginia teachers were still on the picket lines, Morejon decided it was time for his state to follow suit. He created a Facebook group called, “Oklahoma Teacher Walkout—The Time Is Now!” In just three days, the group swelled to 30,000 members. On March 8, the union laid out a list of demands—like a $10,000 raise for teachers and $200 million to make up for education funding cuts—threatening a massive school walkout on April 2 if they weren’t met. On March 31, the Legislature approved a $6,100 raise, but it wasn’t enough and the walkout was called.”
Learn more about Teacher Pay and How Salaries, Pensions, and Benefits Work in Schools, before opening this article where the headline (No, Teachers are Not Underpaid) says it all and boldly claims that “Across-the-board salary increases, such as those enacted in Arizona, West Virginia, and Kentucky, are the wrong solution to a non-problem.”
In this corner, The New York Times take on how the Teachers Revolt Spreads to Arizona says there are “several interrelated factors behind the teachers’ movement’s explosive growth. Most significant, of course, is that teachers in some red states feel backed into a corner after a decade or more of disinvestment by Republican governments. Because of a series of tax cuts, particularly over the last 10 years, Arizona teachers are among the worst paid in the nation, and they have some of the country’s largest class sizes — up to 40 students to a single teacher.”
It takes two-thirds of the state legislature in Arizona to impose new taxes or increase taxes and in Oklahoma, it takes 75 percent of the state legislature to make a tax change. Read more here.
The Sacramento Bee article Pension problems help drive US protests for teacher raises suggests “the recent outcry over teacher pay could spread in coming years, whether pension costs are widely acknowledged as a driving factor or not.”
Will North Carolina teachers be the next to strike in this era of “Teacher Spring?” In this Washington Post article North Carolina teacher Justin Parmenter explains “Since taking over state government in 2010, Republican lawmakers in our state have ushered in a jaw-dropping decline in the quality of teacher working conditions and student learning conditions.”
Jodi Peterson is the Assistant Executive Director of Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.
The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.