What Was Behind the Teacher Strikes Across the Country - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Teacher strikes have rolled across five states – West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona and Colorado – and other states are starting to toy with the idea, too.

But what was really behind the teacher strikes, and could they happen here?

What Was Behind the Teacher Strikes?

Many of the teacher strikes in each state have been more about school funding than anything else, although in some – West Virginia and Arizona – teacher pay was also on the table. School conditions have deteriorated in recent years, and funding has declined. People in favor of higher funding for public education cite several reasons – including the fact that in the U.S., we pay about three times more for each prison inmate than we invest in each child’s education every year.

A new study says that nearly all teachers pay for school supplies from their own pockets, despite the fact that many work for very little money. On average, a teacher will spend about $480 per year on classroom supplies that, before the 2008 recession, were typically provided by schools. Teachers in high-poverty areas are far more likely to spend their personal money on school supplies.

In Milwaukee, the average public school teacher earns just over $55,000 per year. (That average accounts for teachers who have been in the profession for decades and brand-new teachers in their first year.) Governor Scott Walker has cut school funding dramatically, but he’s experiencing a lot of pushback from groups that want to save public education.

“Today, the Wisconsin Public Education Network is at the forefront of a statewide effort to support Wisconsin’s public schools and the 860,000 students who attend them,” says Jennifer Berkshire, co-host of the education podcast Have You Heard. “A small army of parents, teachers, school officials, and ordinary citizens are shining a relentless spotlight on the $2 billion in cuts made to the schools here by Walker and the GOP-led legislature, and demanding a fix to Wisconsin’s deeply inequitable school funding system.”

What Do You Think?

Could this lead to teacher walk-outs in Wisconsin this school year? What are your thoughts on how much teachers are paid, whether schools receive enough funding and whether we’re providing adequate education through public schools? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino