The red-state teachers rebellion that started in West Virginia continues to grow, with teachers in Kentucky and Oklahoma walking out on Monday after the Kentucky teachersÂ shut down schoolsÂ in nearly two dozen counties on Friday. In Oklahoma,Â dozens of school districtsÂ haveÂ announced closures for Monday, andÂ many Kentucky schoolsÂ are closed as well.
The Kentucky teachers are protesting a sudden retirement overhaul, while Oklahoma teachers are fighting for increased investment in their schools even after lawmakers voted them a substantial pay increase.
This package does not overcome a shortfall that has caused four-day weeks and overcrowded classrooms that deprive kids of the one-on-one attention they need,â Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest said in a video posted on Facebook. âWe must keep fighting for everything our students deserve.â
Arizona teachers, too, are calling both for pay raises and for increased education fundingâand planning to take action if they donât see improvements. Music teacher Noah Karvelis told NPR that he often has 40 students in a classroom with just seven pianos, and âThe math just doesn’t add up. There’s no way to reach those kids. Every day you’re going home and you’re just feeling like, I failed. I failed these students. And that’s honestly the worst possible feeling any teacher could ever have.â
ThereâsÂ a simple explanationÂ for the education underfunding:
- Arizona cut personal income tax rates by 10 percent in 2006, cut corporate tax rates by 30 percent in 2011, reduced taxes on capital gains, and reduced taxes in other ways over the last couple of decades.
- Oklahoma cut personal income tax rates starting in 2004. The top income tax rate fell from 6.65 percent to 5 percent, with the latest drop taking effect in 2016 even as the state faced a $1 billion shortfall. Oklahoma also substantially reduced its severance tax on oil and gas, increased tax exemptions for retirement and military income, exempted capital gains income from taxation, and abolished the estate tax.
Disrespect for teachers is certainly at play in Republican-controlled states that pay salaries that leave teachers workingÂ second, third, and even sixth jobs, but itâs not just that. Itâs also disrespect for students combined with short-term thinking that will harm people and economies. But hey, rich people will have really low taxes.
And thatâs why teachers are fighting.
This blog was originally published at Daily Kos on April 2, 2018. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura ClawsonÂ is labor editor at Daily Kos.