Teachers Walk Out for Education

Posted by on May 2, 2018 in Education
Sign People

Credit: Brandon Laufenberg/Getty Images

Last month, btw brought you the story of a statewide teachers’ walkout in Oklahoma that lasted for nine days. During that time, the striking teachers filled the statehouse, protesting the legislature which has been steadily taking away funding from public education. Despite not getting everything they had hoped for, the Oklahoma teachers did make some substantial gains. They have since returned to their classrooms and are declaring the walkout a victory.

In all, their successful walkout caused the Oklahoma legislature to boost education funding by $479 million. Lawmakers raised salaries for teachers by over $6,000, which is the largest pay raise in the state’s history. They also increased wages for aides and other support staff, as well as promising ongoing payments of $70 million for classroom supplies. But perhaps the biggest effect of all was how teachers all over the country have been inspired to start similar movements of their own. Here, btw takes a look at teacher walkouts happening right now in Arizona and Colorado.

Colorado

Thanks to shortages in funding, Colorado public schools have lost $6.6 billion since 2009. This means less money is available to pay teachers. Last week, teachers in the state’s ten largest districts walked off the job to protest the fact that the money they make isn’t keeping up with the rising standard of living in the state. The cost of housing, food, and everything else is rising faster than teachers’ paychecks. Retirement plans and other benefits, such as healthcare, are also becoming more expensive.

But teacher salaries aren’t the only issue. Many public school districts, which have been struggling since the recession, have also cut support staff and classes. In some places, the school week is now only four days long. The teachers who remain are often expected to work longer hours for less pay.

More than 600,000 students have been affected by the walkout. Colorado’s Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, announced publicly that he believes public school teachers in his state are drastically underpaid.  But even so, the walkout has not resulted in any real changes so far.

Arizona

In Arizona, teachers are also demanding better pay and more educational resources. Walkouts in the cities of Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff last week have shut down schools for several days, affecting more than 800,000 students.

On the surface, it appears that these teachers are making more headway than their Colorado counterparts: the Republican governor, Doug Ducey, has promised a 20% pay raise by 2020, as well as $371 million over the next five years for educational resources, including school buses, technology, and important building improvements. However, the leaders of Arizona’s teachers’ association are quick to point out that even though the governor has made plenty of promises, there is nothing in writing yet.

What Do You Think? Write a letter to your school’s newspaper explaining why you are in support of the teacher walkouts or against them, and why. Remember always to be respectful of other points of view when considering your response.