Saturday, April 7, 2018

The New York Times Wants to Hear from Public School Teachers about the Current Teacher Protests and Budget Cuts

“It’s no secret that budget cuts have affected public education and our schools. After the Great Recession, state spending on education sharply declined. Now, even though our economy has rebounded, education spending remains close to what it was in 2008, and in 29 states, total state funding per student was lower in the 2015 school year than in the 2008 school year. 

“This means students and educators don’t have access to basic school supplies, class sizes are soaring, courses aren’t being offered, supports are not being provided, textbooks are falling apart and out-of-date, educators and parents are spending hundreds—even thousands—of dollars out of their own pockets, and, in some places, schools are literally crumbling, creating unsafe environments.

“Educators are standing up to say ‘no more’—from Baltimore, where schools didn’t have heat in the middle of winter, to West Virginia, where teachers and school staff fought for their first pay raise in more than four years, to Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona, where educators are still fighting to get much-needed funding restored to education. As E.J. Dionne said this week, ‘teacher activism … is not a flash in the pan. And it’s about more than the demand for higher wages and benefits. It is a revolt against decades of policies that gutted public institutions.’

“What’s new is the willingness and courage of people in states without strong labor laws to walk out on behalf of their students and themselves because the deprivation is so great. And public officials, who are used to exploiting teachers and staff, and ignoring their pleas, are finally paying attention. 

“While Education Secretary Betsy DeVos locked us out when we tried to deliver 80,000 of your comments to her in February, now, ironically, the biggest newspaper in the country is asking you about how budget cuts have affected your schools. Please tell them.

In unity,
Randi Weingarten
AFT President

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1 comment:

  1. I am a newly retired high school English teacher in Louisville, KY. Our pension fund was robbed by former governors to 1. shore up the general fund (Democratric Gov. Paul Patton took 300 million out of KTRS in 2001) 2. to shore up a retired teachers' health fund (800 million taken by Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher. During Democrat Steve Beshear's two terms in office, the state legislature failed to fund the Actuarial Required Contribution. In addition to underfunding our Pension Fund's Board of Directors will not share with us, it's investors, the amount of fees it pays managers of hedge funds and alternative funds. To be honest, most Kentucky teachers did not realize our pensions fund was severely underfunded until this year. Some of us found out in 2013 by reading a Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibi and a small article buried in an inside page of Courier-Journal.

    We approached our union for ideas on what could be done in 2013. Union President Brent McKim more or less patted us on our heads and said we had to work WITH legislators and that some lobbying group would do that. When the 2014 General Assembly failed to fund the Actuarial Required Contribution, a group of teachers (all members of Jefferson County Teacher Association) invited union leadership to a meeting with a potential lawyer to file class action suit. Leadership told us to "go form your own group." KEA and JCTA have basically shunned those of us who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was dismissed in Fed. Circuit court on the basis of sovereign immunity. We plan to refile another lawsuit in state court this year.
    Our school administrators and district administrators will not advocate for us. My guess is they are frightened of losing high-paid jobs, but they draw from the same retirement system. The public has no inkling of a teacher's responsibilities. Everyone thinks we get paid for the entire summer.
    Sure we do, but it's from an escrow that is deducted from our paychecks during school year. We get few paid holidays, and teachers in other counties in the state make abominably low salaries..
    This past legislative session has shown that the GOP in Kentucky and Kentucky's governor lack imagination and intellect. They have vindictively blamed the unfunded liability on "former leadership" when many of those same legislators have been in office since 2005, and some earlier. Kentucky politicians have made a practice of robbing one program to pay for another in order to avoid any thinking or discussion of revenue streams while at the same time giving away billions of dollars in tax incentives to corporations. Kentucky's GOP does not value public education. The party is bought and bossed by outside interests and dark money. It has failed the people of Eastern Kentucky for generations, which is why our state is always about 20 year behind the rest of the country in everything but corruption and cronyism.