The rising red tide of fed-up K-12 teachers is rolling across the county, carrying with it the demands that lawmakers invest in teachers, students and schools and securing win after win.
In Colorado, teachers of District 60 are on their third day of their strike, demanding a 2% cost of living adjustment and better funding for schools. They’ve vowed to keep the pressure until change is made.
In Arizona, teachers concluded a weeklong walkout Tuesday after securing a 20 percent pay raise. Clad in red t-shirts and bearing #RedForEd signs, teachers escalated their actions, took to the streets and marched on the capital. While not all their demands were met, their united stance forced the governor and lawmakers to take immediate action to increase educators’ salaries, a raise worth $644 million. Teachers also mobilized and united thousands of educators, sending a clear message that collective power would be used at the polls and would continue to be leveraged until all demands are met .
In Oklahoma, teachers frustrated by years of cuts to education funding, took to the streets and demanded lawmakers to stop the carnage against education. In response, Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed a $6,100 pay raise for teachers and increased education funding by $50 million. It was a start, but fell short of the demands for a $10,000 raise and $200 million in additional education funding. Teachers consider the increases a Band-Aid on a much larger wound, but know that their united voice has been proven powerful and effective in making change. They vowed to keep rallying until Oklahoma does right by its students and educators.
West Virginia –
The walkout by teachers in West Virginia was the tinderbox that started it all. The statewide strike that closed schools for nearly two weeks ended when Gov. James Justice signed a bill giving teachers and other state employees a 5 percent pay raise. The teachers, who have no labor contract, are among the lowest paid in the nation and had not had a raise in four years.
In Kentucky, teachers fought for their pension system and more school funding. They stood firm against the public judgment of Gov. Matt Bevins, who vetoed a two-year operating budget that included increased classroom spending, and decried teachers for protesting and causing school districts to close . Ultimately, lawmakers sided with teachers, overriding the Bevins’ veto.
Going on strike is known as the highest escalation of action. In Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma and West Virginia striking is actually illegal under state law. But after years of asking and begging lawmakers to address the needs of teachers, students and schools, the collective force of teachers and supporters made it clear that enough is enough. The remarkable show of force by teachers across the country is a clear sign that collective power works and is on the rise.
People are paying attention, forcing quick changes and inspiring others, including faculty and graduate workers to organize and demand better wages and working conditions. Adjunct faculty from institutions including Valencia College and Seminole State College in Florida, Loyola University, the University of Chicago and many more have organized and are fighting for raises, benefits and better working conditions.
It is time for America’s lawmakers to end years of slash and burn tactics against education. The season of reckoning is here and teachers will not be silenced.
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