Six hundred schools were closed in Oregon May 8 as teachers protested for smaller class sizes, increased mental health professionals, more nurses, more librarians and funding for art, PE, school supplies and more.
May 7 was National Teacher Appreciation day. This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. While the heartfelt appreciation from our students and their families are so meaningful to hardworking teachers, the bagels and emails from district leaders and upper administration officials ring hollow. Because of a national concerted campaign of privatization and anti-worker attacks on public education, teaching as a profession has been undervalued and public schools have been undersupported for too long now.
After a year of strikes and walkouts and community organizing, educators around the country are celebrating teacher appreciation week by demanding the appreciation we really want to see–fully funded and valued public schools where teaching and learning conditions reflect what research and experience tells us. We need librarians, nurses, social workers and counselors in every school. We need smaller class sizes so we can give every student the education they deserve. Teachers should be paid a living wage so they can focus on teaching and not have to run out the door to second and third jobs.
In the last week, teachers have made clear that the struggles initiated in early 2018 in West Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona and Oklahoma that led to successful strikes in large districts like Los Angeles and Oakland, Calif., and in Denver, Colo., continue unabated.
On May 1, teachers rallied in North Carolina calling for for more counselors, social workers and nurses in schools, pay raises for teachers, a $15 minimum wage for all school personnel and the restoration of additional pay for teachers with advanced degrees. On the same day, International Workers Day, over 10,000 teachers protested in South Carolina turning the streets of Columbia into a sea of red demanding better pay, less testing and increased school funding.
A working coalition of teachers, students and families has emerged from these struggles and is winning important gains for public education. The so-called school reform movement that brought us insane amounts of standardized testing, expanded the privatization of public schools through vouchers and charter schools, undermined our unions and defunded our public schools is now on the defensive. But as educator protests in the last week are showing, we still have a long struggle on our hands to undo the damage of the last two decades of attacks on public education. Teachers, students and families have made it clear they are ready to mobilize and organize across the country to continue this struggle.