We first caught wind of a state-wide teacher strike in West Virginia back in March. Then, a few weeks later, Kentucky and Oklahoma followed suit. On April 26, Arizona became the fourth state in the past month to hold a strike for teachers.
According to an article in The Guardian, 820,000 out of Arizona’s 1.1 million schools were affected by the closures. As of now, a 20% raise has been proposed—on track with, but a little bit higher than the other states’ proposed numbers (Oklahoma was asking for 16%). Teachers are also hoping for $1 billion in funding for the public school system, as the state has cut more funding in the past decade than any other.
However, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey states that teachers “shouldn’t get their hopes up for a 20% raise.” He claims that there is “not enough” money to provide them with this sort of increase, and as of late March, he was hoping to provide teachers with a 1% raise that would gradually increase with time. To teachers who have to buy and supply their classrooms with basic necessities, this was infuriating, and was the catalyst for the peaceful protest where teachers walked-out of schools and to the capital (at least, those who could), we just saw this Thursday.
Courtesy: The Washington Post
Citizens of the United States have been aware of this injustice for quite a while, but perhaps not of the extent of the damage. In 2016, the National Education Association (NEA) released the “Rankings of the States 2015 and Estimates of School Statistics 2016,” which estimated which states paid their teachers the best and the worst. A website titled the John Locke Foundation took this information and compounded it into a chart that not only ranked the states based on pay, but on the cost of living within that particular state. At the bottom were Arizona, West Virginia, Maine, South Dakota, and Hawaii—each averaging at about $45,000 a year. Two of those five states are among those that have recently engaged in a strike.
One of my high school teachers said more than once that schools end up with frustrated and poor (literally and figuratively) educators because they can hardly afford to live. Young teachers come into the workforce bright-eyed and ready to help this nation’s children grow, but as debt and bills accumulate, that drive fizzles. Many faculty members end up having to take on two or three jobs in order to pay their bills and feed themselves. As a result, students end up with teachers who are unenthusiastic and take their frustrations out on their classes.
I can say with confidence that most of us have had at least one teacher like this. At the time we wondered why- if they really hate kids and their jobs so much- are they teaching? Chances are, they weren’t always like this. Chances are, that they are frustrated by the fact that they paid thousands of dollars for a degree that hardly earns them a living salary. Hopefully, these strikes will enlighten this country and help fix a problem that has been going on for decades.