Teachers are finally taking action to protest the lack of investment in public education that has led to their low and stagnant salaries, lack of adequate supplies for students, and poorly maintained facilities. To add insult to injury, teachers are constantly vilified by right-wingers as lazy moochers who complain despite having cushy jobs and their summers off. Teachers have long been fed up with this state of affairs but now they are getting angry.
They went on strike successfully in West Virginia and today is the second day of a strike in Oklahoma with Kentucky likely to follow suit and rumblings of discontent in Arizona, Alaska, and New Mexico.
Today while driving I heard a teacher being interviewed on the radio (I unfortunately missed her name) and she pointed out that some of the places where the legislators have been pressured into giving raises are taking the money out of the teacher’s retirement system. She was asked by the interviewer about what choices the legislators had, because they had to find the money to pay for the extra salaries somewhere and the only other option was to raise taxes, which the interview called ‘the suicide option’.
I was delighted to hear the teacher say that they should choose the suicide option. She pointed out, rightly, that the public has got used to wanting everything while paying for nothing, a sentiment that I would love hear being expressed a lot more. She predicted that once the pensions were gutted, salaries would become stagnant again, so taking money from that source was going to make things worse. She pointed out that in order to fund private retirement plans (as some suggest) you needed to have a decent salary and that was not possible on teacher salaries as they currently exist in many states. If you want to retain good, experienced teachers, you have to pay them accordingly. Otherwise you will have teacher churn, with people using it as a stop gap until they find something that pays more.
Fortunately, many parents and students seem to be sympathetic to the teachers’ case.