In case you hadn’t heard, Almost 20,000 public school teachers in West Virginia have been on strike since Thursday, closing down 680 schools and keeping home more than 277,000 students. They’re not doing this for fun.
It began on Thursday, a day after West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, a Republican, signed legislation providing teachers, school service personnel, and state police with a 2 percent pay increase starting in July and scheduling 1 percent pay hikes for teachers in 2020 and 2021. The strike is poised to extend into Monday.
Teachers’ unions say the raises won’t cover cost-of-living increases, and the bill doesn’t address other concerns related to public employee insurance programs, health care costs, and payroll tax deduction options.
Curiously, as of this writing Trump hasn’t said a word about an entire state shutting down its public education system. You’d think this would be right up his alley since Trump loves nothing more than to swoop into deep red states like West Virginia and pretend that he’s on the side of the little guy getting screwed. And make no mistake, the teachers in West Virginia are getting screwed:
Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, told CNN that’s a reduction from an earlier version of the bill — which would have instead added a total 5 percent increase in wages. She also said teachers in surrounding states make $5,000 to $20,000 more than West Virginia teachers. In 2016, the average salary for West Virginia teachers ranked 48 in the country, according to the National Education Association, ahead of only Oklahoma, Mississippi, and South Dakota.
Of course, teachers are not coal miners and Republicans despise teachers in the first place so it’s really not all that surprising. The popular image the right likes to sell is of greedy teachers unions and lazy teachers who do as little as possible. As a parent who is heavily involved in my school (third year as PTA president with one year left to serve) and spends an excessive amount of time in the building after hours and on the weekends, I can tell you from firsthand experience that is not true. I see teachers working well into the evening and I even see some of them working on the weekends. It’s possible my children just happen to attend a public school with an unusually dedicated staff but having spoken to many parents in other parts of the country, it’s obvious they’re the rule, not the exception.
Just to be clear, the new WV contract is so bad that combined with Trump’s “beautiful” new tax cuts plus his sabotage of healthcare markets, some teachers have seen an astonishing $1 a day increase in their paychecks. Sure, it beats Paul Ryan’s $1.50 a week but 2 crumbs instead of 1 is still just crumbs.
It’s important to note that Trump and the Republicans have promised to rewrite the nation’s entire energy policy in order to benefit the roughly 50,000 coal miners that currently exist in the United States. That’s the entire United States. Supposedly this is because they care so deeply for the suffering of the American worker. Yet we have 20,000 Americans in just one state being paid less than $45,000 to perform one of the most important jobs in the country, preparing the next generation to be productive and well-adjusted citizens, and Trump and the GOP couldn’t care less.
We should be supporting these hardworking teachers in their fight for a fair salary and benefits and Trump should be ashamed of himself for ignoring the very people he claims to represent.
If you want to do more than our Gilded Age president, you can donate money to keep the strikers going until their demands are met: https://www.gofundme.com/wv-teachers-strike-fund