Teachers Are Striking Around the Country – And They Should Be

Reggie Fullwood
Reggie Fullwood 

So why are teachers on strike in several states around the country? Simple – they are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Between low pay, Republican attacks on their tenure and a lack of funding/resources being put into public education, it makes total sense for teachers to be fed up.

Let’s be real – teachers help shape our lives. From my first grade teacher at Central Riverside Elementary, Ms. Williams, to my fifth grade teacher, Ms. Best and Ms. McCoy in sixth grade – a good educator can help shape our paths.

I remember my high school football coach telling all of his players that his goal was to get every one of us into college – not to play football, but to create opportunities to make our lives better. Coach Jennis had a profound impact on his players and treated his boys like his own sons. For many of us that didn’t have strong relationship with our dads, he became an important father-figure.

Enough about me, but I hope that you get the point. Teachers deserve to be respected and better compensated for their hard work.
That’s exactly why teachers in Arizona and Colorado are planning walkouts this week to demand higher salaries and greater government investment in the public education system. This follows teacher strikes and walk outs that have swept through Oklahoma, Kentucky and West Virginia in recent weeks.

Here is an interesting fact that many people may be missing – these strikes are occurring in GOP dominated, “right-to-work” states. That means that the unions have limited influence and power, so teachers actually risking their jobs to walkout is a big deal.
One of the major challenges facing teachers around the country is the reluctance of state legislatures and governors to restore their pay rates from the time frame prior to the “Great Recession.” Everyone understood budget and education cuts when times were tough, but fast forward to today’s stable economy and even budget surpluses in some states and there is no reason not to properly compensate teachers.
A fact that shouldn’t surprise anyone is the Republician response to the demonstrations – GOP lawmakers are proposing bills in several states that would arrest, fire or demote a teacher for striking or walking out.
Hmmm… So instead of addressing the real issues, lawmakers would prefer to do the most extreme “Un-American” act possible – arrest someone for peacefulprotesting? As my grandmother would say, “That’s foolishness.”
In Arizona, much like other states, teachers have very specific demands, which include: pay increases for all school employees, plus annual raises for teachers; restoring education funding to 2008 levels; and no new tax cuts.
So why are no new tax cuts so important? Well it’s simple matter of balancing your checkbook. If state legislatures keep providing tax cuts, then there is less money to pay for increases in teacher salaries and resources for public education. And besides, who are tax cuts really helping?
“The nation’s six big Wall Street banks posted record, or near record, profits in the first quarter,” the AP’s Ken Sweet reported. “While higher interest rates allowed banks to earn more from lending in the first quarter, the main boost to banks came from the billions of dollars they saved in taxes under the tax law Trump signed in December. Combined, the six banks saved at least $3.59 billion last quarter, according to an Associated Press estimate, using the bank’s tax rates going back to 2015.”

Wow. Yes America, banks have highly paid lobbyists for a reason. And this little tidbit of data pretty much sums up the Republician tax cuts from a few months ago. The average person doesn’t feel it at all, but big corporations will profit greatly. And again, there is a direct correlation between teacher pay and state or federal tax cuts.

When governments collect less revenue from taxes then public services like education, parks, infrastructure projects, etc. are all affected.

A recent AP-NORC poll showed that 78 percent of Americans feel that teachers are underpaid.
Perhaps Barack Obama said it best, “And when it comes to developing the high standards we need, it’s time to stop working against our teachers and start working with them.”

He added, “Teachers don’t go in to education to get rich. They don’t go in to education because they don’t believe in their children. They want their children to succeed, but we’ve got to give them the tools. Invest in early childhood education. Invest in our teachers and our children will succeed.”

Amen Mr. Real President.

Signing off from Central Riverside Elementary School,

Reggie Fullwood

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