Red State Teachers Turn the Tides

Highlights for April 30th

The wildly successful teachers’ strike in West Virginia earlier this spring has not only inspired walkouts in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado and Arizona, but has managed to turn the tide in the all-important realm of public opinion.  According to a recent survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, a full 78 percent of Americans believe that teachers are underpaid. And remarkably, slightly more than half approve of teachers’ strikes to defend public education and protest low pay. Given the fact that members of teachers’ unions currently represent fully a quarter of all union members nationwide, this growing support for teachers holds extra importance.

Here, we offer a piece by New Labor Forum Editor-at-Large Steve Fraser, who examines the conditions that have caused red state teachers to shed the respectability and ambiguity of middle-class status to wage a working-class rebellion. And in a piece written for today’s newsletter, Chris Brooks suggests what teachers’ unions will have to do to keep up with a movement spurred by the rank-and-file, in defense not just of themselves, but also of the children and communities they serve. We also include an op-ed by Paul Krugman, who reveals how the tax cutting protocol of right-wing state governments has led to wage and benefit cuts for teachers and four-day school weeks and substandard conditions for students. And these circumstances, it seems, have finally caused the broader public to reject the conservative propensity to scapegoat teachers for the failures of a public education system plagued by unequal funding and fiscal austerity. We will continue to assess the lessons and inspiration this uprising offers a debilitated labor movement and political movements of the burgeoning resistance.

Table of Contents

  1. Teaching America a Lesson/ Steve Fraser, TomDispatch.com
  2. What Should Unions Do After The Strike Wave?/ Chris Brooks, New Labor Forum
  3. We Don’t Need No Education/ Paul Krugman, The New York Times
  4. Amid Strikes, Americans back teacher raises/ The Associated Press, NORC Center for Public Affairs Research

Teaching America a Lesson

By Steve Fraser/ TomDispatch.com

Teachers in red-state America are hard at work teaching us all a lesson. The American mythos has always rested on a belief that this country was born out of a kind of immaculate conception, that the New World came into being and has forever after been preserved as a land without the class hierarchies and conflicts that so disfigured Europe. The strikes, rallies, and walkouts of public school teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky,… and elsewhere are a stunning reminder that class has always mattered far more in our public and private lives than our origin story would allow. Insurgent teachers are instructing us all about a tale of denial for which we’ve paid a heavy price…

Read the full article here.


What Should Unions Do After The Strike Wave Recedes?

By Chris Brooks/ New Labor Forum

It was only eight years ago that seething hostility towards teacher unions was the status quo. The national media lauded their demonization in liberal documentarian Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for Superman and corporate-backed education reform policies enjoyed a bipartisan consensus—from Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s ACT10 to Democrat President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top. The 2012 Chicago Teachers Union strike was the first real public challenge to the business elite’s education agenda. Now, it appears that the teacher strike wave rolling…

Read the full article here. 


We Don’t Need No Education

By Paul Krugman/ The New York Times

Matt Bevin, the conservative Republican governor of Kentucky, lost it a few days ago. Thousands of his state’s teachers had walked off their jobs, forcing many schools to close for a day, to protest his opposition to increased education funding. And Bevin lashed out with a bizarre accusation: “I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them.” He later apologized. But his hysterical outburst had deep roots: At the state and local levels, the conservative obsession with tax cuts has forced the G.O.P. into what amounts to a war on…

Read the full article here. 


Amid Strikes, Americans back teacher raises

By The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research

Americans overwhelmingly believe teachers don’t make enough money, and half say they’d support paying higher taxes to give educators a raise. The findings of the new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research come amid recent teacher strikes and other protests over low pay, tough classroom conditions and the amount of money allocated to public schools in several Republican-led states.

Read the full article here.


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