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:
June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
Joyce Nelson
The NED’s Useful Idiots
Lindsay Koshgarian
Trump’s Giving Diplomacy a Chance. His Critics Should, Too
Louis Proyect
American Nativism: From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Trump
Stan Malinowitz
On the Elections in Colombia
Camilo Mejia
Open Letter to Amnesty International on Nicaragua From a Former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience
David Krieger
An Assessment of the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit
Jonah Raskin
Cannabis in California: a Report From Sacramento
Josh Hoxie
Just How Rich Are the Ultra Rich?
CJ Hopkins
Awaiting the Putin-Nazi Apocalypse
Mona Younis
We’re the Wealthiest Country on Earth, But Over 40 Percent of Us Live in or Near Poverty
Dean Baker
Not Everything Trump Says on Trade is Wrong
James Munson
Trading Places: the Other 1% and the .001% Who Won’t Save Them
Rivera Sun
Stop Crony Capitalism: Protect the Net!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail