The first quarter of 2019 has been marked by several major city teacher strikes. Just as in 2018, teachers, students, and their supporters have taken to the picket line to strike against a variety of issues pertinent to their school systems across the nation.
In 2018, the Labor Department reports that 485,200 workers were involved in “major work stoppage.” A large number of those strikers (373,000) were teachers! Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, reflects on the differences between last year and this year: The strikes in 2018 tended to center on reduced school funding and low teacher pay. This year, there is more of an effort to “defend public education” and push back on initiatives that attempt to derail the public school system.
In January, teachers in Los Angeles went on a week-long strike not only fighting for salary increases and reduced class size but also demanding a moratorium on new charter schools.
In Denver, teachers went on strike in opposition to a pay-for-performance bonus system that purports to increase teacher pay based on student performance. Although voters had endorsed this system years ago and money was allocated to it, teachers now find the system too cumbersome and feel there is a lack of transparency with their pay year-to-year.
Teachers in West Virginia took to the streets again in 2019 to protest a bill that would bring charter schools to their state. In addition, this bill would have authorized vouchers, an educational savings account, for families to use for private schools. The teachers and their union are vehemently opposed to these initiatives and remained on strike until the lawmakers adjourned, effectively killing the bill.
Maryland Teachers March for Increased Funding
Closer to home, thousands of teachers and students descended on Annapolis, MD, for the “March for Our Schools“ rally in an effort to convince lawmakers to increase funding for education. A bill introduced in the House of Delegates asks for one billion dollars over the next two years to fund many of the recommendations set forth in the Kirwan Commission, a report that looked at improving Maryland schools by increasing teacher salaries and providing free, full-day pre-kindergarten programs to low income families.
— Dianna E. Washington, PhD, Chair, Education and Children’s Policy Task Force