America’s teachers are taking to the streets by the thousands.
In West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky and soon to be Arizona and Puerto Rico, educators are leaving the classroom and storming their state capitals.
Not because they’re greedy. Not because they don’t want to do their job. But because this country doesn’t care enough to provide them the resources they need to do it.
America doesn’t care about black and brown children.
America doesn’t care about poor white children.
America only cares about middle class and wealthy kids, preferably if their skin has a melanin deficit.
Don’t believe me?
Just look at how much these states have cut education funding. Look at how the federal government has slashed financial assistance. Look at how districts are forced to increasingly rely on local tax revenues to pay for the kind of education their children receive.
This means poor kids get poor resources. This means minority kids have to do without.
For the dark and the destitute, this means larger class sizes, out of date text books, and narrowed curriculum. It means fewer tutors, reading specialists and librarians. It means being left to your own devices to deal with the effects of generational poverty which put them behind their wealthier, lighter peers before they even enter kindergarten. It means greater emotional disturbance, greater malnutrition, higher absences, more learning disabilities, and less help to deal with any of it.
On the other hand, for the economically privileged white kids, it means just the opposite – fewer social problems, and the best of everything to deal with whatever issues they have.
It’s an unfair system, and teachers aren’t having it. We’ve been sounding the alarm for years, but it has fallen on deaf ears.
We don’t want to strike, but lawmakers are giving us no choice.
We’re saying, Enough! We’ve had it with the excuses.
Society hires us to do a job – let us do it.
Don’t refuse us the money to get it done and then blame us for the results.
That’s why there was a 9-day teachers strike in West Virginia which won educators a 5% raise in February.
That’s why 30 districts closed in Kentucky this week after a statewide sick out inspired by the legislature’s plan to cut pension benefits.
That’s why thousands of teachers in Oklahoma walked out this week demanding higher wages and better school funding.
And it’s why educators in Arizona, Puerto Rico and other states and territories may be next.
When you deny teachers the basics necessary to do their jobs, you’re refusing your responsibilities toward children.
When you deny educators a fair wage, you’re discouraging young people from entering the profession and encouraging those already there to seek work elsewhere.
And that is what we’re talking about here – a fair wage. We’re not talking about teachers getting rich off the taxpayers dole. You’re asking us to get an advanced education and do a hard job – that requires a middle class income so we can pay off our student loans and support our families.
The same goes for pensions. When teachers took their jobs, a fair pension was part of the contract. You promised that after 30-some years, educators could retire and you’d take care of them. You can’t renege on that. And if you plan to offer less for those coming in to the field, you’re going to get fewer high quality teachers willing to take the job.
When you attack unions and union benefits, you’re really attacking students. A teacher who can be fired at the whim of an administrator or school director is not as affective at her job. She has less autonomy and freedom to do what is right for her given students. And she has less reason to take a chance on the profession in the first place.
This doesn’t mean that after three years teachers should have a job for life. They don’t. It just means that if you’re going to fire a teacher for negligence, you should have to prove she’s negligent first.
This is why there’s a so-called teacher shortage in most states. As a society, we’ve become less-and-less willing to pay for teachers to do their jobs. We’ve become less-and-less willing to offer them the independence and respect necessary to get things done.
Because we’ve swallowed a pack of lies from the business community.
Many of them look at our public schools and see an opportunity for financial gain.
School funding may not be enough to give every one of the 50.7 million students in public school a first class education, but it’s more than enough to make a cabal of entrepreneurs and corporate officers rich.
That’s why they’re pushing charter schools and voucher schools and standardized tests and edtech software scams.
They want to get rid of democratic rule, get rid of teacher-based assessments and – ultimately – get rid of teachers. They want to replace us with minimum wage temps and leave the work of educating to computers that can provide test prep and standardized assessments.
But only for the poor and minorities. The affluent and middle class white kids will still get the best money can buy. It’s only those other kids they’re willing to feed to the wolves of edu-profit.
THAT is what educators are fighting.
THAT is why teachers across the nation are striking.
We’re demanding this nation does right by its public school students.
And that begins by supporting their teachers.
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