By Omer Arain (@omersarain)
Rise in teacher strikes
Last Friday, the teachers in Sacramento overwhelmingly voted to strike - its first in nearly 30 years. Less than three months into 2019, already teachers have mobilized in Denver, Los Angeles, Oakland, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Even before Sacramento, 2019’s teacher strikes affected millions of students, with nearly 100,000 teachers in work stoppages - more than any year between 1993 and 2017.
A wave of teacher strikes overtook the United States in 2018. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more teachers were on strike in 2018 than the past 25 years combined - headlined by a wave of strikes in West Virginia, then Jersey City, then Oklahoma, then Kentucky, then Colorado, then Arizona, and finally North Carolina. Never forgetting the students they serve, strikers also arranged for breakfast and lunch meals for low-income students while their schools were closed.
A long-time coming
The abrupt rise in teacher strikes could be an anomaly, but more likely represents a collective frustration from years of strained public education funding. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities titled a 2017 report, “A Punishing Decade for School Funding”. Teacher pay has yet to return to pre-Great Recession levels - the Brookings Institute estimates a 3.5 percent real decline in teacher pay since 2007. A whopping 94 percent of public school teachers pay for supplies with their own money.
Teachers are organizing for fair wages and benefits, smaller class sizes, fighting school closures, and the hiring of more school nurses, librarians, and counselors. They are also protesting measures enabling charter schools to sap money away from public education budgets.
If there is such a thing as social mobility, it begins with good educational opportunities and environments. A budget is not merely numbers, but a reflection of our priorities. #Red4Ed
Omer Arain (@omersarain) is a research analyst at Change to Win.