Teacher walkouts: Here are five things you need to know

Teacher walkouts: Here are five things you need to know

April 29th, 2018 by Meghan Mangrum in Local Regional News

Thousands march to the Arizona Capitol for higher teacher pay and school funding on the first day of a state-wide teacher strike Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Photo by Ross D. Franklin

Since teachers walked out of schools in West Virginia earlier this year, several other states have experienced similar walkouts and calls from teachers for more funding for schools, higher wages and better benefits.

This momentum has grown nationwide, and though Tennessee teachers have not moved to strike, here are some things you need to know about teacher strikes and where and why they're happening.

1. Teachers rallying in many of these states are paid among the lowest amounts nationally.

In 2016-2017, the average salary for a public school teacher was $58,950, according to the National Center of Education Statistics. In Arizona, the average teacher makes $47,403 a year; in Colorado, he or she makes $46,506; in Kentucky, $52,339; in Oklahoma, $45,245; and in West Virginia, $45,701.

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2. In many states, strikes are illegal.

In Tennessee, state law forbids teacher strikes, said Jim Wrye, assistant executive director of the Tennessee Education Association. Tennessee's Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act of 2011 also removes the right to bargain collectively but rather requires "collective conferencing." In West Virginia and Oklahoma, strikes are also illegal; however, Wrye said when "all of K-12 — teachers, school boards, administrations — when everyone takes the action," it is harder to punish those who strike. Public employees also are prohibited from striking in Georgia.

Collective conferencing begins Monday in Hamilton County.

3. A proposed Colorado law would fine or even jail teachers for striking.

Last week, as Colorado teachers rallied, Republican state lawmakers introduced Senate Bill 18-264, which would prohibit public school teachers and teacher organizations "from directly or indirectly inducing, instigating, encouraging, authorizing, ratifying or participating in a strike against any public school employer;" authorize school systems to file court injunctions; and allow teachers to be fined or jailed if they don't comply with such a court order, according to The Associated Press.

4. Kentucky teachers rallied over their pensions.

Thousands of teachers stormed Kentucky's state capital after witnessing victory in West Virginia and Oklahoma, but they weren't calling for higher wages, according to The Associated Press. Instead, teachers were calling for improvements to their pension plan. Kentucky has one of the worst-funded pension systems in the country, the AP reports. The state is more than $41 billion short of what it needs to pay for retirement benefits, with only about one-third of what it needs in cash now.

5. Many of the strikes have been successful.

West Virginia's teacher walkout ended last month after nine days when Gov. Jim Justice agreed to a 5 percent pay raise. In Oklahoma, where teachers haven't had a raise in a decade, according to The Associated Press, they secured a 15-18 percent increase, and Kentucky lawmakers voted to override their governor's veto and increase funding to education with a $480 million tax increase this month. Teachers continued to rally in Colorado and Arizona on Friday.

Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at mmangrum@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.


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