On February 22, 2018, teachers in over 55 West Virginia counties walked out of their schools to protest low wages and to lobby for increased benefits and standards. This was a landmark act for teachers in these predominantly rural districts, where teacher pay ranks at 48th place in the United States. After nine days of protest, which resulted in a week long school shutdown, West Virginia lawmakers agreed to raise all state employees’ pay by 5%. Governor Jim Casy signed this bill into law on March 6, 2018, officially ending the mass strike. However, this marks just the beginning of a long fight for teachers. The strike in West Virginia inspired teachers across the United States to speak up and to protest their low wages. The after effects of these protests were seen across Oklahoma, Kentucky, and most recently in Arizona.
In Oklahoma, on April 2, 2018, teachers walked out to protest low pay and recent cuts to their budget. Oklahoma teachers are the lowest paid in the nation, and have not received any pay increases in the past ten years. Approximately 30,000 teachers marched down to the capital, closing nearly half of the school districts in Oklahoma. They demanded $10,000 in raises for teachers, $5,000 in raises for support staff, and $200 million in education funding. Unfortunately, they were only able to partially achieve their demands. State lawmakers agreed to an average annual teacher raise of $6,100, $1,250 in annual raises for support staff, and an additional $50 million in education funding. Oklahoma teachers stated that these increases were unsatisfactory and it is unclear whether there will be another walkout in the near future.
While Oklahoma protests were going on, Kentucky teachers also decided to walk out of schools, protesting a recent pension bill that cut benefits for new teachers, despite preserving benefits for most other workers. The walkouts resulted in schools being closed on April 13, 2018 prompting Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin to state, “I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today, a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them.” Although Bevin later apologized for this statement, this only further angered teachers. Bevin has not yet taken further action to appease the state teachers.
The most recent development in the fight for better pay for teachers is taking place in Arizona. Despite Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s pledge to give teachers 20% annual raises by 2020, teachers in Arizona have voted to walk out on April 26, 2018, expressing dissatisfaction. Their demands include a 20% annual raise by next year, since teachers in Arizona make approximately $47,403 annually, which is quite below the national average. As of now, the outcome of this protest is unclear, but it looks like the movement to provide teachers with more equitable pay is definitely gaining momentum.
– Anika Sanyal
Categories: Student Life