The Little Hawk

Teachers protest nationwide for increased funding

Maya Djalali, Reporter

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Since February 2018, thousands of teachers from West Virginia to Arizona have been protesting for better pensions and more adequate school funding.

These protests were fueled in response to budget cut plans by state governments that would cut 16 million dollars from school funding as well as the 2% increase in pay that was promised to them. According to teachers, this still isn’t enough to cover the rising costs of healthcare. Teachers in West Virginia ranked 48th in the U.S in terms of pay.

Teachers, as well as parents and students, protested in the Capital, Charleston even though strikes by public workers are illegal in West Virginia. The strike ended after two weeks when a bill was signed to give teachers a 5% raise. The protests have been spreading like wildfire to other states and gaining attention from teachers and state governments across the nation. Other states such as Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kentucky have begun protesting. All these states have one thing in common, they are all ranked at the bottom when it comes to teacher’s pay in each state.

Oklahoma and Kentucky then followed West Virginia’s lead. Oklahoma teachers, ranked 49th in pay, have been protesting against budget cuts that have left 20%  of public schools on a four-day-week schedule. A bill passed in late February cut even more funding from nearly every state agency, including $16.2 million from the Department of Education. Backlash from this caused legislators to increase taxes on cigarettes and gas production to provide teachers with raises of about 15-18%. It also added $50 million in education funding. However, teachers said that it still wasn’t enough.

In Kentucky every school district was closed as teachers walked out of class and rallied at the capital, Frankfurt. These too were in response to a bill lawmakers passed last week that cuts pension benefits for new and retiring teachers.

Teachers in Arizona threatened to follow West Virginia’s lead and go on strike if the state didn’t meet their demand of a 20% pay increase. About 200 school districts closed as teachers and supporters rallied in Phoenix wearing red as a part of their RedForEd movement.

These protests and strikes are causing schools to be closed for weeks at a time leaving students who depend on schools for daily nutrition facing additional burdens. While some of the superintendents for these schools have voiced their support, they are calling for actions that have less of a negative impact on students.

Teachers increasingly feel the role of politics in education.

“It’s sometimes the hidden politics in education that we don’t see or hear or talk about that sometimes affects us,” said Dolores Silva, Spanish teacher at City High. “The current administration that is running our education department has every intention to work with businesses but not understand the educators that are actually doing the educating.”

In Iowa teachers receive fairly average wages placing 31st in the country in terms of pay. Under Iowa law, unions are not illegal but are limited in there ability to negotiate for public workers. Iowa teachers who strike face up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine.

“It great that these teachers have the right to protest, we in Iowa do not. Anyone who works and is challenged to work should have a voice,” said Silv

The constant budget cuts and underappreciation of teaching staff, has made these strikes a long time coming.
“The pay and the benefits have been problems for years, and there’s constantly been the promises of, ‘We’ll take care of this,”  said Kym Randolph, West Virginia Education Association director of communication and a teacher union member. “It’s finally gotten to the point where the promises aren’t enough.”

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Teachers protest nationwide for increased funding