It’s time for some historical perspective so we can really understand what is going on with this year’s teachers strikes. A common thread in almost every state under Republican rule is that funding has been taken away from public schools, systematically and over a long period of time. The genius of GOP ideology came up with the idea that by cutting state taxes the economies would boom and this would increase state tax revenues. But it hasn’t worked out that way.
You can go to every state with a teachers strike and see the same pattern: Republicans take power and cut taxes, and then to make up the shortfall in state budgets they cut funding to schools.
Over the last ten years, this is how much “per pupil student funding” has DROPPED in each of these four “red states.”
- Oklahoma: per pupil funding down 28%
- Kentucky: per pupil funding down 16%
- Arizona: per pupil funding down 14%
- West Virginia: per pupil funding down 11%
The implications of this are quite severe because normally over time we’d expect expenditures per student to rise with inflation. And many aspects of school budgets — such as health insurance premiums — have experienced large INCREASES over the last decade.
So schools have been getting squeezed from both ends. Textbooks are old. Schools are in disrepair. Teachers have to buy their own supplies. Class sizes keep ballooning to the point where teachers lose their effectiveness. Of course, teacher salaries have been stagnant, but it’s more than that. Teachers in these states are saying “enough.”
Here is the situation in Arizona, according to Vox:
“Republican Gov. Doug Ducey tried to avert the strike by promising a 20 percent raise over the next three years — a promise that some say is tied to overly optimistic growth projections.”
“But it’s important to understand why Arizona teachers aren’t just happy with a raise, and why their demands include restoring education funding to where it was a decade ago and a promise from the state lawmakers not to implement more tax cuts.”
“The state has some of the most poorly funded public schools in the nation — and over the past several decades, state lawmakers have systematically divested from public education.”
In short, Republican tax cuts have created a crisis in education in every red state throughout the United States. Tax cuts on the wealthy and on corporations combined with budget cuts to public schools is a toxic mix.
The very existence of public education is being threatened, and that’s what the teachers strikes are all about. If they are not successful in their fight, then we will end up with a good education system for the wealthy and a poor education system for everybody else.
This should not happen in America. It is time to restore Democrats to power and to restore public education funding to the top priority that it should be so we can assure a prosperous future for our country.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.