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Teacher Wildcat Strikes COULD Signal Shift Away From Conservativism…. IF

April 6, 2018

Washington Post op ed writer E.J. Dionne wrote a column that is heartening for those of us who believe in public education. His essay “New Teacher Activism Signals Revolt Against Conservative Ideology” posits that the teacher strikes we are witnessing is evidence that America is waking up to some basic facts about public education funding and taxation: education cannot be done on the cheap and the GOP tax policies are draining money from middle class workers and sending it to billionaires. He writes:

The red state insurrections are a reminder of something that can be lost in our back-and-forth about school reform: Money matters. You can’t run a decent school system on the cheap. If you could, successful suburban school districts wouldn’t invest so much, and teacher pay is part of this. Genuine reformers aren’t wrong to demand improvements in school quality. But they need to separate themselves unequivocally from those who simply want to trash public services.

Today’s rebellion… is also built on genuine disaffection, in this case over the impact of deep budget cutbacks in conservative states, usually to support tax cuts tilted toward corporations and the well-off.

The teachers are bringing this home by refusing to confine their energies to their own pay. They are highlighting the deterioration of the conditions students face—aging textbooks, crumbling buildings, and reductions in actual teaching time. About 20 percent of Oklahoma’s school districts have gone to four-day weeks.

I wish that I read more about the “…the deterioration of the conditions students face” and less about the relatively high wages and benefits teachers receive for the nine months they work… but I believe the mass media is stuck in a narrative that the GOP promotes whereby taxpayers are forced to pay more and more for schools because UNIONS insist that the employees they represent get more and more money. Mr. Dionne does an excellent job of explaining how real spending for public education has diminished since 2008 and how the GOP’s tax policies are hurting public services in general. Here’s hoping the teachers unions and wildcat strikers do their best to make the public aware of what is REALLY happening as a result of the GOP’s tax-spend-and-borrow policies and how their ideas are not only shifting the money to the wealthy but creating a deterioration of public services that will affect our students into their adulthood.

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