This past Thursday, Arizona teachers voted to launch a strike with the hopes of securing raises and to bring funding to public education, in general.
The strike begins this coming Thursday. At the university where I work, emails have been sent faculty-wide to make contingency plans for faculty/staff who have school-aged children that may suddenly not have daytime care available if attending a school that has been shut down.
But it’s not just faculty and staff. With the increase in older/returning students, many of our undergraduate (and graduate) population are parents, too. So it’s really a university-wide issue across all levels of student, staff, faculty, and administration.
This is the first state-wide strike for the state of Arizona, but not the first across the country. This strike was proposed following similar strikes, like the successful strike in West Virginia just last month.
Arizona is always at the bottom of the list of state rankings for public education. Just last year, we ranked #43 out of 50 in the US News and World Report rankings. Underfunding is chronic, and I’ve heard personal gripes from teachers about the abysmal state of education. As a state, we voted to raise sales tax by 1% in an effort to fund education. But knowing several public school teachers, I’ve heard from multiple sources that (at least for those people I personally know), teachers have not seen any raises, nor an increase in classroom funding for supplies and educational materials. And in fact, class sizes have continued to grow. So the whole thing is just a mess.
As an educator, myself, I recognize and value the importance of education. I work at the college-level, but it’s clear that many students coming to college have not had adequate education before we receive them as Freshmen. We lack the funding to attract and retrain quality teachers (not that quality teachers don’t exist – but they’re paid poorly). And we don’t provide adequate up-to-date training materials and classroom supplies. I want our teachers and our schools to have more funding. I’m willing to pay more for it (via sales tax, etc.), but it’s frustrating when it’s unclear whether the taxes are actually going to help the educational system.
As a parent, I am thankful that I have a flexible and understanding job. What if I didn’t? What if teachers went on strike and I had to call in to my job in order to stay home with kids and then my job was in jeopardy? What if I was forced to take sick leave or vacation time to cover my absence? What if, worse still, I lost my job over the absence? No one knows how long the strike will last. I know several people in a situation where they are not able to take off unscheduled time off and their jobs could be in jeopardy if they are forced to stay home with school-aged children while teachers strike. There doesn’t seem to be a great solution.
What are your thoughts on the recent uptick in teachers’ strikes across the U.S.?
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