Teachers Strike for Higher Pay
Last month, teachers in West Virginia walked out of classrooms in a strike for almost two weeks demanding better wages from the state legislature.
The strike finally ended when the legislature passed a bill that raised teacher and other state employees pay by 5% and Governor James C. Justice signed the bill into law. Approximately 200 of West Virginia’s schools were closed when the protests began.
Many teachers threatened to cross state lines to teach where they could make almost double their current salary. Previous to the bill, West Virginia was one of the worst states for teacher pay at $45,701, according to the National Education Association.
This week, teachers from Oklahoma and Kentucky are set to follow West Virginia’s steps and walkout of classrooms to protest low wages. The teacher walkouts could presumably last until the state legislatures approves some funding for better classroom conditions and a raise in teacher pay.
“Oklahoma’s schools and educators endured some of the steepest cuts in education in the last decade, reductions that are evident in dwindling supplies, aging textbooks and the pay stubs of teachers,” according to the Washington Post. “Before last week, state legislatures had not raised the minimum salary for teachers in a decade, making them among the worst paid in the nation.”
Oklahoma teachers gathered on a bus Monday morning and traveled miles to Oklahoma city to march on the State’s capital. From all over the country, teachers are demonstrating walkouts from classrooms to protest the low wages, unstable classroom environments and lack of supplies. Kentucky, Arizona, Oklahoma and West Virginia are the current states, but the wave of protests are diffusing to other states where teachers and state employees have had enough.
The successful protests have inspired other teachers from states where teacher pay and classroom settings have become unbearable conditions to both the students and teachers alike. Last week Arizona teachers gathered in Phoenix to demand a 20% raise from the state legislature in addition to better classroom conditions.
“Our unions have been weakened so much that a lot of our teachers don’t have faith in them,” said Noah Karvelis, an elementary school music teacher in Tolleson, Arizona, and leader of the movement #RedforEd, named after the red T-shirts worn by protesting teachers across the country.
The wildfire of teacher rallies and protests could make its way to North Carolina as teachers and state employees could soon follow the steps of educators across the nation. In 2011, North Carolina was ranked 45th in teacher pay according to the National Education Association.
However, over the past 5 years the average teacher salary has risen from $45,737 to $51,214 which is a $1,000 increase from last year. According to the News and Observer, “The state can’t take complete credit for teachers eclipsing the $50,000 mark, because many school districts supplement the state base salary. This year, the average local supplement was $4,337.” Teacher pay is expected to make its way in political stakes this November as fall mid-term elections approach.