The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Teachers Stand Up in Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arizona

Apr 2, 2018

Starting in West Virginia, where more than 30,000 teachers and school employees organized a state-wide strike – winning 5 percent raises – the idea of making a broad fight is starting to spread. A West Virginia teacher said of their recent strike, “We wanted to inspire teachers all across the nation.” A good plan!

After a decade of tax breaks to corporations and cuts to education, teachers are pressuring state lawmakers for more money for education. Organizing on a state-wide level, teachers are protesting and shutting down school systems.

In Kentucky, thousands of teachers called in sick in outrage on Friday, March 30. All the schools in 20 counties were closed. They did this because, late Thursday night, Kentucky legislators had passed a sneak attack on teacher pensions. Angry teachers stormed the state Capitol on Friday, March 30, demanding the Governor not sign that legislation into law.

At roughly the same time, in Oklahoma, legislators rushed through a pay-raise they thought would prevent a planned state-wide teacher strike on April 2. It included the state’s first tax increase in years. The governor has already signed it into law.

Oklahoma politicians claimed teachers would see a 16 percent pay raise. But teachers quickly studied the legislation and did the math. The numbers did not add up! Proposed funding is only 15 percent of what teachers had been demanding!

“We have buildings that are falling apart and text books that need to be taped together,” said a suburban Tulsa teacher. In Oklahoma, 20 percent of schools are only open four days a week, due to cuts. Teachers say they want raises for all state employees. They plan to walk out state-wide on Monday, April 2.

In Arizona, teachers are also ranked low in pay. Thousands of teachers rallied at the state Capitol on March 28, demanding 20 percent raises from state lawmakers. They want schools to be funded roughly as well as they were back in 2007!

It is important that all of these teachers are trying to organize at a state-wide level. The broader the fight, the broader the possibilities. This is true for teachers and public employees, but also for workers in every walk of life. Whether the teachers win or lose is less important than the experience they are gaining in learning how to unite and fight.

One Kentucky teacher summed up today’s situation well. She said the outpouring of angry teachers Friday at the state Capitol reflected the mood of many workers who have seen cuts to wages, pensions and healthcare. “It’s an attack on American workers,” she said. “It’s all over the country.”

Support for these teachers needs to be solid from every worker. And if one day these fights start to be “all over the country” – even better!