West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado, Arizona and now North Carolina. The teacher walkouts and protests have captured the attention of the nation, but what will they mean for Texas, and will they translate into the principal goal that lies at the heart of all these collective actions–more funding overall for public education?
First, let’s look at something unique about the collective actions so far. An article from Education Week yesterday analyzing the teacher walkouts notes:
One of the striking teachers’ innovations, particularly in Arizona and Oklahoma, has been to make the link between teacher pay and overall school funding explicit, policy experts note.
“Your run-of-the-mill teacher strike revolves almost squarely around salaries,” said Michael Hansen, the director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. “In Oklahoma, where they got half of what they were asking for on salaries, but kept striking [for education funding]—to me, that feels qualitatively different.”
Indeed, what’s unique is the importance the participants in the walkouts have placed on ensuring their students benefit from their actions, and the fact that these aren’t isolated problem spots for our schools. Underfunding public education is a wide-scale problem found in the majority of our states, and it directly impacts the future of our communities and nation.
Yes, underfunding impacts educators personally as well. Large classes stress out teachers with excessive workloads. Districts can’t afford to offer cost-of-living raises to school employees, or health-care costs eat up any salary increases they do receive. And who wants to work in an environment with crumbling schools and old, disintegrating textbooks? But teachers also realize that underfunding also is shortchanging their students as well and limiting their opportunity to learn.
So this movement of collective actions for educators is different, but will it spur widespread change and be a catalyst for increased funding in, let’s say, Texas? Our legislators are quick to champion the value of education, but many–particularly Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his allies in the Texas Senate–aren’t willing to face what the evidence in so much personal testimony and so many reports has shown: Money does matter in education, and our students are suffering the consequences from years of neglect, while educators are being crippled by low salaries and high health-care costs.
So maybe it is time for Texas teachers and other school employees to do something to spur change–something beyond the worthwhile but more subdued efforts of writing letters to legislators. And we know it’s time that legislators take to heart the old saying educators have known to be true for so long: “Teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.”
Here are three great ways to keep the issue of underfunding at the forefront in Texas:
- Show up for our rally in Houston on May 19, noon to 3 p.m. at Discovery Green. (Co-sponsored by Texans for Public Education and Mike Collier, candidate for lieutenant governor.) If you can’t make it, we’ll provide a way for you to speak out on that day. More info and you can RSVP if you’re a Facebook user here.
- Be ready to vote for pro-public education candidates in the May 22 primary runoff and in the November general election.
- Continue to share your stories on our Speak Out! campaign, which highlights the impacts of low teacher pay and high health-care costs.