As the teacher’s strike in Oklahoma extends into a second week, people across the country are making their own opinions about which side of the strike they support. In reality, there should not be sides being taken at all. Teachers, the hard-working people who are literally shaping the minds of the future, believe they should be making a fair wage and receiving enough funding to properly run their classrooms. I struggle to see any problem with that.
There is no reason why a manager at McDonald’s, a position that requires no degree, should be making the same annual salary as a teacher who has a bachelor’s and possibly even a master’s degree. It is absolutely shameful that lawmakers around the country have neglected public schools for so long. And now that the teachers are finally fighting back, leaders from around the country have the nerve to be against them.
Last week, Republican Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin compared striking teachers to “a teenage kid that wants a better car.” This statement is coming from the leader of a state that has cut its education funding by 30 percent over the past decade and ranks 49th in the country in teacher salary. So no, these teachers are not whiny children. They are adults who are fighting back on behalf of the children that have been forgotten by their own state legislature.
Later in the week, United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos stated that teachers should return to work to “serve the students,” calling the funding negotiations “adult squabbles” that shouldn’t affect students. Except these funding issues have been affecting students for decades. Stuck using 30-year-old textbooks and lacking necessary classroom supplies, these students (and those of the future) deserve better.
Our schools are some of the most important institutions in the country. A well-educated population is the core of any successful nation. The students we are teaching today are our leaders of tomorrow. Yet the United States education system is an afterthought for many politicians who would rather focus on more funding for an already astronomical military budget or building an unjustified border wall. As lawmakers continue to slash funding for public education, the United States educational rankings on the global scale have steadily dropped. There is a direct and startling correlation between these two statistics.
As national test scores drop off, teachers are under more scrutiny from parents than ever. Teachers are blamed for the lack of resources provided in the classrooms, which are overcrowded with students and under-allocated with materials. Many teachers pay out of pocket for basic classroom supplies from their subpar salaries. Yet somehow, legislators wonder why teachers are fed up with their pay and work conditions.
The walkouts that have taken place in West Virginia, Kentucky and Oklahoma should be a wakeup call to leaders around the country. Instead of ridiculing educators for desiring change, listen to them and take reasonable steps to address their needs. Now, teachers in Arizona are threatening a walkout if their diminished funding is not replaced. States should not need to wait for their teachers to begin walking out before they consider making adjustments to education funding. Make these vital changes today.
It is time for our country to give teachers and their classrooms the respect they deserve. Pay teachers like the world-changers they are, fill their classrooms with the necessary supplies to make the United States a world leader in education and set up our students and future voters for success as educated adults.
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