Socialist Worker

Striking teachers in California join growing revolt over pay and funding

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2643

Teachers on strike in Chicago earlier this month

Teachers on strike in Chicago earlier this month (Pic: Charles Edward Miller/Flickr)


Around 3,300 teachers in Oakland, California, began their fourth day of strikes on Tuesday.

Their struggle follows the impressive Los Angeles teachers’ strikes and more walkouts in Colorado and West Virginia this year.

In Oakland teachers are demanding a 12 percent rise over three years along with reduced class sizes and more student services.

So far they have been offered a derisory 7 percent rise over four years.

That won’t keep pace with inflation, but the Oakland Education Association union was yet to reject the offer as Socialist Worker went to press on Tuesday.

Growing tension between teachers and their union leaders have been a common feature of the US teachers’ strikes.

In West Virginia union leaders agreed a deal with bosses during a previous round of strikes last year.

It left some of the teachers’ demands over pay and health care costs unresolved.

Workers walked out anyway in defiance of the union in some areas of the state.

The Republican-dominated state senate decided against voting on a bill to raise teachers’ and other state workers’ pay last Saturday.

Demand

Teachers are increasingly turning to strikes as a way of winning political fights. In West Virginia a key demand of the strike was to stop the introduction of seven charter schools—privatised institutions—in the state.

Education strikes in 2018 boosted the total number of work days lost to strikes to their highest number since 2007—1.5 million. Some 485,000 workers walked out in 20 disputes—that’s the highest number of workers involved in strikes since 1986.

By far the largest sector was education. Strikes in 2019 could push the number of days lost to strike action even higher.

The potential for a national campaign against the privatisation of education is growing.

Donald Trump’s education secretary Betsy DeVos is a multi-billionaire privatisation zealot with no educational experience, yet she is transforming education in the US.

Last year the Schott Foundation for Public Education released a report on public schools in the US.

It found that just three states had not introduced either a school voucher or charter schools scheme—both methods of privatising education.

The stakes could not be higher when it comes to the future of education in the US.

But teachers are leading the fight and showing how to resist Trump’s agenda.


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