Brief #32—Education

Policy Summary
The nationwide teacher-led demonstrations continue to materialize with greater  tenacity and vigor. Day after day this week, the streets of major cities across the country drew a similar portrait of streets lined of protesting teachers, academics and supporters. The groups marched in unison, to support awareness about the qualms plaguing public education. The protestors waved posters and signs declaring their discontent. Educators were focused on brining attention to such qualms such as  low wages forcing educators into second jobs, unfit school buildings, smaller classes, decreases in high-pressure exams, more substantial salaries and more support staff. These marches have appeared in Los Angeles, West Virginia, Richmond, Oklahoma and elsewhere.

Soon after a six-day strike in Los Angeles, teachers in Virginia, Colorado, and elsewhere in California joined in on the fight. Hundreds of Virginia teachers descended on the state Capitol on Monday, following in the footsteps of educators nationwide that have launched a wave of activism highlighting the plight of public education. Virginia Educators United, a grassroots educator group, organized the Richmond march. The protest earned support from teacher’s unions, both on a state level and nation-wide. “We can talk a lot about salaries and resources, but those who face the brunt of the consequence of not having a fully funded public education system are those kids,” said Sarah Pedersen, one of the many educators who marched at the Virginia state Capitol.

The teachers’ petitions for increased support occur amidst a significant decrease in funds over the past decade. The Virginia rally is the largest teachers march since nearly 30,000 citizens took to the streets in Los Angeles this January. President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, participated in the Richmond protest on Monday. “Virginia is a pretty rich state, but actually spends about a billion dollars less in education than it did before the recession, which means its priorities need to be reordered”, Weingarten said. In fact,   Although Virginia is the 12th wealthiest state,  educators in the state make much less than the national average. Furthermore, since the 1930’s, state funding for K-12 schools has declined 12% when adjusted for inflation. According to the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, state funding in the 2018-2019 school year was 9.1 percent lower in than it was a decade earlier.

The protest in Richmond cost an estimated $125 million, but thankfully led to several victories for teachers and students. This past month, Gov. Ralph Northam recommended a budget that would incorporate$268.7 million in new funding for K-12 education. The budget proposal would embrace an additional 2% raise for educators, meaning teachers would get a combined 5% raise starting early this summer. The suggested 5% raise is currently working its way through the state Legislature.

Resistance Resources

  • The Virginia Education Association is to unite our members and local communities across the Commonwealth in fulfilling the promise of a high quality public education that successfully prepares every single student to realize his or her full potential.VEA is a statewide community of more than 50,000 teachers and school support professionals working for the betterment of public education in the Commonwealth. You can join the VEA membership here:
  • United Teachers Los Angeles union (UTLA) sets out to address policy at all levels and is set by members either directly or through elected representatives. Currently the 34,000 members strong, they are always looking for addition support:
  • Fairfax County Federation of Teachers represents all non-administrative certified and classified Fairfax County public school employees. We represent the interests of teachers, counselors, librarians, teaching assistants, clerical employees, and other men and women who work so hard to make our schools work. To support them, click here to help teachers and educators have a voice:
  • Virginia Professional Educators are a non-profit, professional association of teachers. It is a group created by teachers for teachers.

This Brief was submitted by USRESIST NEWS Erin Mayer Policy Analyst Name: Contact

Photo by unsplash-logoTra Nguyen

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