Over the past 10 years, Republican-controlled legislatures across the country have slashed corporate taxes, decimated school funding, ignored teachers’ pleas for raises, and tried their best to crush public employees’ collective bargaining power through unions.
On Thursday night, Kentucky’s Republican-controlled state legislature passed a controversial teacher pension reform bill that lawmakers had only revealed to the public hours earlier.
In response, teachers across the state decided not to come into work the next morning. More than 20 counties across Kentucky announced school closures on Friday.
From the Courier-Journal:
Small groups of teachers already in Frankfort on Thursday afternoon were quick to protest the committee’s move.
Angry current and retired teachers, clad in bright red, began chanting “Vote them out” as lawmakers emerged from the crowded meeting where committee chairman Jerry Miller, R-Louisville, had refused Wayne’s request to invite a representative of the teachers to speak.
Kentucky teachers and their supporters are now calling for a strike in all 120 counties, using the hashtag #120Strong—a callback to West Virginia’s statewide teacher strike in February.
Earlier this week, teachers in Oklahoma—which ranks 49th in the country in average teacher salary—threatened to walk out of schools starting on Monday. In response, Republican Governor Mary Fallin rushed to increase school funding and give public school teachers their first pay raises in a decade by raising taxes on cigarettes, oil, and gas production.
Note this comically apt anecdote from the Associated Press (emphasis mine):
The reversal on tax cuts in Oklahoma was particularly stunning, because lawmakers there included a hike on the normally sacrosanct energy industry, increasing the production tax on oil and natural gas from 2 percent to 5 percent. In the Legislature, where lawmakers needed a three-fourth’s majority in both bodies to pass a new tax, the House voted even as billionaire oil baron Harold Hamm, the chairman and CEO of Continental Resources, glared at them from the gallery.
Now, it looks as though Arizona could be the next frontier for red state teachers organizing for better pay and funding for education. Arizona teachers are demanding a 20 percent pay hike from the GOP-controlled state government, and are considering their own strike.
It’s a good reminder on this Good Friday that when workers band together in solidarity, better conditions for our teachers and students can come out of it. Political pressure works.