FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Teacher Strikes Are About a Lot More Than Paychecks

Teachers across the United States are having a moment.

Educators are building on the momentum from West Virginia, where striking teachers won a 5 percent pay raise for state employees. Now the protests have spread to Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and the nation’s capital.

The educators are winning broad public support, but some politicians aren’t pleased.

Teachers are displaying a “thug mentality,” Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin complained. They’re asking for too much, like a “teenager wanting a better car,” according to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin.

Is it really “selfish and short-sighted,” as Bevin put it, to demand a livable wage?

Teachers have long lived on austerity salaries while seeing their benefits, from pensions to health care, come under attack. They make less than other college graduates in all 50 states, and they’re more likely than other workers to hold a second job.

But better pay isn’t all that’s compelling educators to act. Teachers are using the classroom to fight for their entire communities.

In Kentucky, teachers had to protest to save a critical social service program, which nearly fell victim to state tax cuts for the wealthy.

Politicians in Oklahoma spent years following the same path, slashing taxes for oil and gas companies while letting schools suffer. Thousands of Oklahomans have shared now-viral photos of the battered textbooks used by the state’s students.

The problem isn’t confined to a few bad actors. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 29 states provided less overall state funding per student in 2015 than they did before the 2008 recession. The result: school conditions so poor that they’re forcing teachers to stand up and demand better.

These teachers are taking notes from Chicago. In 2012, when teachers there launched their first strike since 1987, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said it was a “strike by choice” that Chicago’s kids didn’t deserve. Teachers countered that the real choices harming the city’s kids came from government officials and their corporate backers.

The union released a report pushing for proven reforms that would allow teachers to improve education while reducing inequality. And they proposed progressive taxation measures and closing corporate loopholes to help pay for the services their students needed most.

Chicago’s teachers weren’t just bargaining for their own paychecks and benefits. They were demanding justice for everyone in their classrooms — and for the community as a whole.

Labor leaders elsewhere are following that model.

Detroit teachers made national headlines in 2016 with “sickouts” in protest of the poor conditions in public schools — including black mold, rats, and lack of heat. The city teachers argued that suburban schools in the state would never be left to deteriorate in the same way.

In St. Paul, teachers included demands for racial equity in the classroom in their collective bargaining negotiations, which took place right as Super Bowl festivities kicked off there. How could the state’s corporations fund the Super Bowl, teachers argued, yet not pay enough in taxes to fully fund school districts?

The teachers striking today are using the same arguments. The Oklahoma Education Association has proposed several revenue-raising options, like eliminating deductions for wealthy investors and increasing production taxes on oil and gas companies. All told their ideas would add more than $900 million to state coffers.

Just like the Chicago strike of 2012, the teacher protests taking place today aren’t a “choice,” but a response to one. Politicians chose to slash funding for public schools. Teachers are fighting that decision — and for their communities.

The only selfish and short-sighted thing to do is continue with a broken status quo.

More articles by:
August 21, 2018
Anthony DiMaggio
Fascist Nation: The “Alt-Right” Menace Persists, Despite Setbacks
Chris Floyd
Dial “N” for Mayhem: Wording Our Way to a New Level of Hell
Creston Davis
The Education Impasse in the USA
Jonathan Cook
In Detaining Peter Beinart, Israel Has Declared it No Longer Represents Millions of Jews Overseas
Kshama Sawant
UPS Teamsters, We Have Your Back in this Fight
Kenneth Culton
Trump Supporters: the Joyous Cult Bound by Shared Story and Ritual
Andy Thayer
Why the Chicago ‘68 Convention Matters Today
Simone Chun
Sea of Tears: The Tragedy of Families Split by the Korean War
William Blum
The Russians Did It (cont.)
Manuel E. Yepe
How Capitalism Erodes Mental Health
Doug Noble
Thomas Mountain
Djibouti Faces Dark Days to Come; Eritrean Ports, Pipeline Threaten Ethiopian Trade Lifeline
Binoy Kampmark
Finding Fault and Faulty Infrastructure: Genoa’s Morandi Bridge Disaster
Kary Love
“Suffer Not the Little Children….”
Thomas Knapp
Omarosa Manigault Newman, Public Servant
August 20, 2018
Carl Boggs
The Road to Disaster?
James Munson
“Not With a Bomb, But a Whimper” … Then More Bombs.
Jonathan Cook
Corbyn’s Labour Party is Being Made to Fail –By Design
Robert Fisk
A US Trade War With Turkey Over a Pastor? Don’t Believe It
Howard Lisnoff
The Mass Media’s Outrage at Trump: Why the Surprise?
Faisal Khan
A British Muslim’s Perspective on the Burkha Debate
Andrew Kahn
Inhumanity Above the Clouds
Dan Glazebrook
Trump’s New Financial War on the Global South
George Wuerthner
Why the Gallatin Range Deserves Protection
Ted Rall
Is Trump a Brand-New Weird Existential Threat? No.
Sheldon Richman
For the Love of Reason
Susie Day
Why Pundits Scare Me
Dean Baker
Does France’s Economy Need to Be Renewed?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Mighty Voice for Peace Has Gone Silent: Uri Avnery, 1923-2018
Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail