FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It

Teachers are ready to revolt.

That’s the message we should take away from West Virginia, where educators in every county went on strike recently. The teachers secured a major victory, including a 5 percent raise for state employees.

The win couldn’t be more well-deserved. Teachers across the country are on the front lines of some of the most pressing national battles, from the opioid crisis to school shootings.

In West Virginia, educators tackle those issues alongside high poverty rates and joblessness — and their wages have stagnated while health care costs have skyrocketed. These educators said they’d had enough — and captured the imaginations of the workers around the country.

Of course, not everyone is thinking creatively. Some West Virginia Republicans have threatened that the costs of those raises should come from Medicaid cuts.

But teachers’ raises don’t have to come at a cost to essential programs. And teacher pay isn’t the reason the state’s budget is tight.

In fact, years of tax cuts were responsible for defunding West Virginia’s education program in the first place. Over the last decade, the state slashed its corporate rate and did away with a host of other taxes, bringing down revenue by $425 million a year.

Plenty of other states have prioritized corporate interests over schools. Oklahoma offered oil companies steep tax cuts, allowing public services — especially education — to be gutted.

The state slashed its per-pupil funding by more than 28 percent over the last decade. Dozens of districts only hold classes four days a week, and teachers there have gone a decade without pay raises.

Like in West Virginia, Oklahoma teachers know where the money is. Educators in both states have suggested raising taxes on oil and gas production to fund raises.

Ensuring energy businesses pay the taxes they already owe would even be a good start. First in line should be West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, the billionaire coal heir and richest man in the state.

His family’s companies owe millions in taxes and penalties, and not just in his home state. Reporters in Kentucky, where teachers are also considering strikes, have pointed out that the missing millions Justice owes one county could make quite an impact in the school district’s budget shortfall.

Still, lawmakers are being stingy with raises. “It’s easy to come in here and just vote for what people want, but that’s not what the general citizens expect of West Virginia,” one state Republican said.

Instead, lawmakers there seem dead set on doing what constituents don’t want.

As teachers across West Virginia gathered to strike, the state legislature killed a bill that would’ve levied a small tax on oil and gas companies to help fund public employee insurance.

They also voted to make it easier for companies to drill even where some locals don’t want them — and then  rejected an amendment that would’ve used revenues from that drilling to support teachers.

In Oklahoma, residents have grown tired of waiting for lawmakers to fix the problem. They’re pushing for a ballot measure  to raise the funds for teachers’ raises with a modest gross production tax on oil and gas.

So what do ordinary Americans expect from their states? Fully funded schools, or blind allegiance to big energy corporations?

As West Virginia grapples with the answer, other states would be wise to learn the lesson. Teachers around the country are already taking notes.

Negin Owliaei is a researcher at the Institute for Policy Studies and a co-editor of Inequality.org, which ran a longer version of this piece.

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
Binoy Kampmark
The Disgruntled Former Prime Minister
Faisal Khan
Is Dubai Really a Destination of Choice?
Arnold August
The Importance of Néstor García Iturbe, Cuban Intellectual
James Munson
An Indecisive War To End All Wars, I Mean the Midterm Elections
Nyla Ali Khan
Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions
Dan Bacher
Judge Orders Moratorium on Offshore Fracking in Federal Waters off California
Christopher Brauchli
When Depravity Wins
Robby Sherwin
Here’s an Idea
Susan Block
Cucks, Cuckolding and Campaign Management
Louis Proyect
The Mafia and the Class Struggle (Part Two)
David Yearsley
Smoke on the Water: Jazz in San Francisco
Elliot Sperber
All of Those Bezos
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail