This year, fights at state capitols across the country are looking different than ever before. Educators are tired of the budget cuts to schools, tired of low pay, and tired of being ignored or disparaged. And they are willing, like never before, to act collectively to fight for their kids, their schools, themselves and their communities.
From West Virginia to Oklahoma, Kentucky, and, this week, Arizona and Colorado, educators are walking out of their classrooms to protest low pay, austerity budgets, and the threat of privatization and closing schools.
And they have the support of parents, students and their communities. A new poll says that 78 percent of Americans support increasing teacher pay and more than 50 percent would support raising their own taxes to pay for it.
Today, teachers in Puerto Rico will rally at the Capitol and create a human shield around it to show they will protect public education. Demonstrate your support by joining their shield virtually in solidarity on Facebook and Twitter.
The usual Republican playbook isn’t working anymore. Economist Paul Krugman gave a great analysis this week of why. He said that tax cuts sharply reduce revenue, wreaking havoc on state finances, which forces states to cut spending. And since education is central to state and local budgets, that puts educators in the crosshairs.
Yet this fight is far from over. We must build Americans’ love for their public schools and their children’s teachers into a movement for safe, welcoming, well-resourced public schools for every single child.
That’s why tomorrow, in Arizona, teachers are walking out to demand increased funding for education and higher pay. The governor there recently offered a proposal, with no means for funding, that would increase pay for teachers but not school support staff, and that fails to put new money into the classroom.
And it’s why in Colorado, over the next two days, educators will walk out to demand more funding for public education.
And it’s also why, today, I’m in Puerto Rico protesting the move by its governor and education secretary to close 283 public schools and turn many over to charters and private companies with no oversight.
This afternoon, educators and community allies in Puerto Rico will form a human shield around the Capitol to protect our children. This is what educators are: a human shield against budget cuts, charters, vouchers, privatization and disrespect.
From walkouts now to walk-ins at the voting booth in November, we need you with us—to protect the promise of public education.