Having weekends, summers and holidays off sounds like a dream job, but a public school teacher whose options are either a shortened pay season or a smaller paycheck may beg to differ.
Low salaries are only one part of a larger set of problems that have led to teacher walkouts in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona.
State legislators are looking to cut costs wherever they can, but they’re looking in the wrong places — teacher and staff wages, and retirement funds. Teachers reasonably want state legislators to recognize the repercussions of a limited budget and understand that it is no longer just a teacher’s issue, but a community issue as well.
The government claims there isn’t enough money to give raises and sustain the budget, yet as The New York Times said in an opinion article, West Virginia “senators, who receive hefty checks from gas and energy companies, could have funded education needs had they passed a modest tax increase on these companies.”
It all comes down to a lack of money. Rather than tax these big companies, and possibly lose those “hefty checks,” senators in West Virginia cut school budgets and under pay hard-working
teachers and staff.
Budget cuts have led to four-day-a-week classes in some parts of rural Oklahoma, with art classes being cut and schools lacking of supplies like textbooks.
Teachers have also had to become increasingly creative with how they teach students, often using their own money to buy basic classroom supplies, such as dry-erase markers, paper, pencils and erasers. They are even sending home checklists asking parents to donate supplies for the classroom like tissues and hand sanitizer.
Originally meant to teach children the basics — reading, writing and arithmetic — teachers are now seen as counselors, listening to student concerns about everything from homework to troubles at home. They are referees, breaking up fights on the playground and in cafeterias.
With the added threat of school shootings, some teachers are also taking on the role as security guards. It’s no wonder teachers are starting to crack beneath the unnecessary added pressure.
The government seems to label children a high priority with programs ranging from nutrition to outdoor activities, but it doesn’t seem to realize that by not listening to voices of the teachers, it is neglecting the needs of the children.
School is often a haven for children, particularly for those who rely on school-provided resources like lunches when they might otherwise have gone hungry. And parents who rely on weekdays when their children will have a relatively safe place to be.
After a nine-day walkout, the teachers of West Virginia were successful in getting Gov. Jim Justice to sign legislation authorizing a contract agreement that includes a 5 percent pay raise for the 20,000 teachers and more than 10,000 support staff in the state.
Teachers deserve appreciation for their unseen hours of extra work. To avoid further budget cuts, continued community support can result in more changes like the one in West Virginia.
Continuous efforts from teachers ensure that, despite the budget cuts, students will still receive a good education. Though the budget cuts in education certainly shouldn’t have been so severe, with support from the community teachers voices can be heard and meaningful change made.