First, it was teachers walking out in West Virginia.
Then, it was teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky.
All of them have one thing in common: They have gone on strike, to protest numerous issues.
These include low pay, pension laws, and the abysmal state of the public school education system in the United States.
Timeline (so far)
- February 22nd: The call for West Virginia teachers to strike comes from the West Virginia branches of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association.
- February 23rd: Teachers rally in front of the West Virginia State Capitol, while others picket individual schools.
- February 27th: An announcement of a deal between union leaders and Governor Jim Justice.
- February 28th: Every county in West Virginia announced school closures.
- March 3rd: The strike is extended into the eighth workday when the West Virginia Senate proposed a 4% pay rise, instead of the 5% pay rise passed by the West Virginia House of Delegates.
- March 7th: School personnel return, after the State Senate agreed to the House’s position.
- End of March: Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signs a bill raising spending on teacher and support staff pay by $405.5 million. This equates to average raises of $6,100 for teachers, and $1,250 for support staff. However, the teachers’ union had been asking for an average of a $10,000 raise for teachers.
- April 2nd: Oklahoma teachers go on strike, concurrently with Kentucky teachers. Oklahoma teachers protest low pay, overcrowded classrooms, and tax cuts which created lower state-wide education funding. Education spending per student in Oklahoma has decreased 28 percent since 2008. Kentucky teachers are protesting changes in their state’s pension laws.
- April 13th: Oklahoma teacher walkout ends. Teachers around the state pledge to continue fighting for more school funding and higher pay. Oklahoma teachers are the lowest paid in the entire U.S. The walkout ended when the union understood the state legislature did not want to contribute any more revenue for public education. The amount of extra education spending for the next fiscal year is roughly $479 million for teacher and support staff salaries, and school needs.
For me, I’m glad that teachers are utilizing their voices. They have reached their breaking points. It’s not all about their compensation, but a host of issues. State funding has decreased. Schools are not being maintained. Teachers don’t have enough textbooks, and some of these books are more than 20 years old. Others have taken to social media to post photos of broken chairs, outdated equipment, and even their salaries. Several have questioned why they need a college degree to be making so little money.
Some teachers in Oklahoma have been working THREE additional jobs, or more, on top of their teaching. Some do landscaping, others drive for Uber and/or Lyft, and so on.
The most recent development was in the state of Arizona. It was looking like those teachers were going to strike, but the governor recently offered a 20 percent pay raise. We’ll have to see how this pans out.
Teachers are entrusted to give quality education to our children, and future generations. How can they possibly teach well if they struggle with so many issues? I could go on and on about:
(a) the detriments of standardized testing.
(b) teachers buying basic school supplies for their classrooms throughout the year, in order for their students to be able to learn effectively.
(c) teachers dealing with student hunger, either by recognizing how many are on free or reduced-cost meal programs, or having food pantries in their classrooms because their students aren’t getting enough to eat.
(d) administrators and school boards working against teachers, including issues such as continued disciplinary problems, vandalism, dysfunctional parents, and more.
(e) school administrators, school board members, and district/city school superintendents receiving substantial pay raises.
And there are more. Before she retired last year, my mom saw several excellent teachers leave their public elementary school in favor of private schools. These teachers did not feel free to truly teach and be creative in their classrooms, among other problems. It was incredibly sad!
And my mom taught English as a Second Language (ESL), so she didn’t have the full classroom of kids that were going through round after round of standardized testing. She did teach elementary school in North Carolina during the 1970s and 1980s – 13 years total – and it was completely different back then. The teaching environment has changed so drastically in the last few decades, and not for the better. No wonder there are less and less people majoring in education and becoming teachers.
If you’re curious, here are the five of the top-paying states for teachers. However, keep in mind that these states are also some of the most expensive places to live in the U.S.
- Alaska – Average salary: $74,122
- New York – Average salary: $73,247
- Connecticut – Average salary: $72,524
- California – Average salary: $68,711
- New Jersey – Average salary: $67,938
And, here are the lowest-paying states:
- North Carolina – Average salary: $43,059
- Arizona – Average salary: $42,875
- South Dakota – Average salary: $42,564
- Mississippi – Average salary: $42,393
- Oklahoma – Average salary: $41,088
- Why West Virginia teachers are fighting for better pay and benefits
- Kentucky and Oklahoma teachers flood state capitals — and refuse to back down
- Your guide to the Oklahoma teacher walkout
- All of West Virginia’s teachers have been on strike for over a week
- Teachers have gone on strike in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky – this is how much teachers make in every state
- Oklahoma Teachers Continue Strike
- Oklahoma teachers, students reunite for playdate as walkout continues
- With peaceful walk-ins, Arizona teachers gauge support for walkouts, closing schools
- Oklahoma teacher walkout ends
- Arizona governor offers teachers 20% pay raise, but educators have questions
- These charts show why America’s teachers are fired up and can’t take any more
In addition, the fight for teacher pay and benefits continues in my local area, as well. I live and work in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. There are seven major cities here: Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach.
As recently as this week, teachers have been packing local City Council meetings, calling for raises and more school funding.
- Newport News teachers call for 4% raise at city council meeting
- Emotions run high as the fight for higher teacher pay continues in Newport News
In case you’re wondering, Virginia ranks eighth in the list of teacher pay by state, with an average salary of $64,285.
What do you think about teachers going on strike?
Do you think other states are soon to follow?
Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂