After Success in West Virginia, Teachers in Other States Consider Strikes

This month the nation watched as every single West Virginia public school teacher walked out of their classrooms to strike for fair salaries and benefits reform. And though it took nearly ten days, the teachers eventually had their demands met. Now educators in other states are finding inspiration from their peers in West Virginia.

So far, teachers in Arizona, Kentucky and Oklahoma are making plans to follow West Virginia’s successful strategy. There, educators managed to push lawmakers to provide them with a 5 percent pay increase, in addition to other concessions.

Arizona, where teachers earn an average salary of just $34,000, ranks last in the nation when it comes to pay. For a family of four, the federal poverty line is $25,100. Though teachers say they don’t want to strike, it may come to that if their salaries don’t receive a meaningful boost soon.

Though many employed teachers in Arizona face regular financial stress, others have opted to move out of state in search of a livable income. This trend has resulted in an increasing strain on the teachers who remain in-state. As one teacher representative, Joe Thomas, explained to Fox10, a mere 5 percent salary bump won’t be enough to effectively retain educators in Arizona. “To be competitive with states around us … We need a 11 or 12 percent raise,” says Thomas.

Teachers in Oklahoma are also seeking similar changes, having issued an ultimatum to state lawmakers: Meet our demands by April 1 or face statewide school strikes. And their aims extend beyond salary increases for teachers.

Currently, the average salary for an Oklahoma public school teacher is around $43,000. Those threatening to strike want that amount increased by $10,000, putting it within a few thousand of the national average teacher salary.

A $5,000 raise for school support staff is also on the list of demands, as well as a $7,500 raise for employees working for education-related state agencies. Oklahoma teachers emphasize that many of these agencies are understaffed — a reality that must change.

Beyond education, teachers in Oklahoma want to see more funds dedicated to bolstering public resources, including mental health services and improved public safety — no doubt inspired at least in part by the tragic Parkland school shooting.

In Kentucky, teachers have also set an April 1 deadline. Already, thousands of educators have taken to demonstrating in the state capitol. Here, the main contention surrounds state lawmakers’ push to reform pension programs in Kentucky. Teachers’ pensions would be slashed if this effort succeeds. However, teachers are hopeful, especially given that the attorney general has stated that the bill would be illegal.

So far, the Kentucky Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union, has not given any sign that a teachers strike is imminent, despite the looming April 1 deadline. This may be due to a state law which actually makes teacher strikes illegal.

It would be a safe bet to say that these states are not alone in contemplating a possible strike among public educators. After West Virginia’s success, the United States may be on the verge of a major labor movement within the field of education. This should come as no surprise, however, considering the woefully inadequate resources that far too many states devote to their school systems. These demands are long overdue.

Photo Credit: Governor Jim Justice/Flickr

49 comments

Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thanks

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill7 months ago

How is this helping our children? The unions have become too big and too powerful. Teachers unions are a detriment to our kids!

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John B
John B7 months ago

Thanks Llowell for sharing the info.

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Ramesh B
Ramesh B7 months ago

Thank you

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie8 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie8 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie8 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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heather g
heather g8 months ago

Wow. They don't put a high value on the need for the best education.

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Winn Adams
Winn A8 months ago

I hope they get hazard pay too . . . . .

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Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O8 months ago

'Every child is potentially the light of the world—and at the same time its darkness; wherefore must the question of education be accounted as of primary importance'. – Abdu’l-Baha,....Every child needs to have a good teacher that can bring education to them in a well rounded and enthusiastic way to encourage them forward. How are teachers stressed and laden with financial woes do that? Every State and county should be paying their quality teachers an equal wage so they can stay and concentrate on the betterment of children for our future.

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