The Teacher Uprising Spreads Far and Wide

  • An Associated Press poll found that 78 percent of Americans think teachers are paid too little, and a majority support teachers’ strikes to win higher pay. Fifty percent said they favor higher taxes to pay teachers more.
  • After weeks of protesting proposed pension concessions, Kentucky teachers were shocked to learn in March that their Republican-dominated legislature had suddenly amended a bill on sewer system regulations to include 291 pages on pension reform. The new law creates a two-tier pension system. Teachers reacted with sickouts, closing schools in a dozen districts as thousands rallied at the capital.

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    After this backlash, the state legislature did increase funding for schools, but inflation-adjusted per-student funding is still 16 percent lower than in 2008. And to finance the new spending, instead of closing corporate tax loopholes, the legislature used regressive taxes. Ninety percent of Kentuckians will pay more—while the top 10 percent of income earners will pay less, and the top 1 percent will pay far less. An unprecedented 46 educators are now running for the state legislature.

  • School bus drivers in DeKalb County, Georgia, pulled a sick-out over pay, retirement, and poor treatment. About half the workforce participated, but most drivers returned to work by the third day, after officials fired the “ringleaders.” The drivers, who are overwhelmingly African American, have no union but had organized a Drivers and Monitors Advisory Committee.
  • Colorado teachers have joined the wave of walkouts, shutting the state’s 10 largest districts April 26-27 as they join protests at the state capital over a lack of funding and their pension plan. The Colorado Education Association says that teacher salaries after inflation have dropped 17 percent in the last 15 years, and that the state has underfunded education by $6.6 billion since 2009 by failing to implement a constitutional amendment that requires education funding to grow on pace with inflation. “We have been funding education out of teachers’ paychecks for too long,” said Paula Reed, vice president of the Jefferson County local. Two Republican state senators responded by proposing a bill that would send to teachers to jail for six months for striking.
  • Thousands of North Carolina teachers are planning to take personal days on May 16 to demonstrate at the capital for school funding and teacher raises. Teacher pay there is $10,000 below the national average.
  • Corporate elites are worried about the public support for teachers. The State Policy Network, a conglomeration of right-wing think tanks, put out a messaging guide. It admits, “A message that focuses on teacher hours or summer vacations will sound tone-deaf when there are dozens of videos and social media posts going viral from teachers about their second jobs, teachers having to rely on food pantries, classroom books that are falling apart, paper rationing, etc.”

    Instead, the guide suggests that politicians should emphasize that “teacher strikes hurt kids and low-income families.” On cue, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin told the press, “I guarantee you somewhere today, a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were left alone” as a result of teacher walkouts. Meanwhile teachers from Arizona to West Virginia have gone out of their way to make sure kids are fed while schools are closed.