The current wave of instructor walkouts began a year ago this week, when educators across West Virginia were out of the class for nine days. The motion spread to five more states before the school year was over.
New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that practically a half a million U.S. workers were off the job in strikes or lockouts throughout 2018, and nearly 400,000 of them were teachers. It was the most significant year for work stoppages since 1986.
This year, individual districts — such as Denver and Los Angeles — have picked up where states left off. Educators in Oakland, Calif., were on the picket lines Thursday and Friday, and Sacramento, Calif., instructors might be next.
Educators say they’re upset. They put on’t like how states and school districts reward them and their trainees. A lot of the disappointment comes down to cash, however dignity and respect are examples, too.
Why are instructors striking?
Teachers make less than other employees with comparable experience and education — a space that’s broadened in current years. More than a million instructors aren’t covered by Social Security. An NPR/Ipsos Survey conducted last April found that 59 percent of teachers have worked a 2nd job, and 86 percent say they’ve spent their own cash on classroom supplies.
In most states where teachers strolled out of their class last year — like Oklahoma, Arizona and Colorado — teachers make even less than other teachers throughout the country, specifically after their pay is changed for expense of living.
Many of these teachers were pressing for better pay and more financing for schools. Some got what they desired — at least, they were guaranteed it.
Then, a significant Supreme Court decision last year dealt a blow to instructors unions. In Janus v. AFSCME, the court ruled that public sector unions can no longer gather cash from nonmembers covered by collective bargaining arrangements. That decision could possibly weaken instructor unions by cutting them off from loan.
Many scholars forecasted after the Janus decision that there would be more militant organizing, consisting of more strikes. That’s because unions may feel required to show their value to prospective members, as the strength of bargaining agreements — which tend to consist of costly strike charges — erodes along with union power.
In Los Angeles, teachers got pay raises, smaller sized class sizes and more support workers, amongst other things. Denver instructors protected much better pay and modifications to their controversial reward system.
Compared with states, districts have been left in a hard spot when reacting to teacher demands. Throughout the strike in Los Angeles, for example, district leaders blamed the state for their funding problems. Funding to school districts comes from shifting, complex combinations of regional, state and federal sources, and in California, financing per student is well below the nationwide typical.
When the strike ended in Denver, Superintendent Susana Cordova said, “We’re in the shape we’re in since of the absence of will and the lack of collaboration at the state level to invest in our schools,” as Colorado Public Radio reported.
Charter schools are part of the story, too
Teachers in two Chicago charter school networks have gone on strike, asking for much better pay and smaller classes.
Meanwhile, public school teachers have long argued that charters siphon public funds and fail to serve all students. In Oakland and Los Angeles, teachers are asking for more constraints on these schools.
West Virginia teachers walked off the task again for 2 days this week to protest a bill making its way through the statehouse that might have actually introduced charter schools to the state. Lawmakers effectively eliminated the expense on Tuesday, and union leaders called the strike off on Wednesday night after the time for lawmakers to reevaluate the step had passed.
How are teachers organizing?
A lot of the walkouts last year occurred in right-to-work states, where unions are smaller and weaker. Grassroots groups teamed up with unions to plan strikes and walkouts.
Districtwide strikes this year have been led by local unions, like United Teachers Los Angeles, the Denver Classroom Educators Association and the Oakland Education Association.
Unions and grassroots groups have both relied on social media to coordinate. The slogan #RedforEd became prevalent last year and has chose up again in Denver, Los Angeles and Oakland.
Putting the strikes in political context
Is this movement a partisan one? Largely, if not totally.
Picketing teachers have frequently, though not always, dealt with off versus Republican legislators. In Colorado and Arizona, for example, Republican lawmakers presented costs that were seen as direct retaliation against strikers: to prison teachers for walking off the task or penalize them for talking about politics in the class.
When teachers in Kentucky strolled out of their classrooms last spring, Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, informed press reporters, “I warranty you someplace in Kentucky today, a child was sexually assaulted that was left at house due to the fact that there was nobody there to watch them.” He later on apologized.
Republican Mary Fallin, then governor of Oklahoma, informed CBS N ews last year that instructors on strike were “kind of like having a teenage kid that wants a much better vehicle.”
Meanwhile, conservatives declared the Janus decision as a triumph for the “individual rights of teachers” as well as the “lessened capability for unions to block education reform generally,” as Lindsey Burke of the conservative Heritage Foundation told NPR last spring.
Some scholars state striking instructors fit the profile of a more comprehensive motion within the Democratic Party.
Dozens of instructors ran for state office during midterm elections, mainly on Democratic tickets, according to an analysis by Education Week. Jahana Hayes, the 2016 National Instructor of the Year, ended up being the very first black Democrat chosen to Congress from Connecticut, on a child-centered, progressive platform.
Democratic presidential prospects, notably, are throwing their assistance behind striking teachers. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., tweeted in January that she was standing in uniformity with the striking Los Angeles instructors.
Los Angeles instructors work day in and day out to inspire and inform the next generation of leaders. I’m standing in uniformity with them as they strike for improved trainee conditions, such as smaller sized class sizes and more counselors and curators. https://t. co/WcUdrSOk7D
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 14, 2019
That’s a huge change from the Obama period, when numerous Democrats backed charter schools, tests and accountability.
President Trump, meanwhile, expressed support for school option in his recent State of the Union address. He has had little to say about the instructor walkouts or the conditions they work under otherwise.
But education issues cross celebration lines.
As teachers objected in West Virginia this week, Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, informed reporters, “I’ve stated all along that I am not an advocate and a fan of charter schools, duration.” A expense introduced to the state Home on his behalf would provide a pay raise for state workers, including instructors.