The wave of teacher strikes and protests that swept the country in 2018 aren't likely to slow in the new year as educators are already planning more events for this year — including some as early as this month, Education Week reports.
Los Angeles teachers, some of whom boycotted staff meetings at their schools in December and who continue to refuse to engage in contract negotiations, plan to strike Jan. 10, according to a United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) news release. The union requested a 6.5% across-the-board raise retroactive to July 1, 2016, smaller class sizes, less testing, an expansion of the community school model, and more counselors, social workers, librarians and nurses.
In northern California, teachers in Oakland — who have asked for higher salaries and class-size reductions — are holding a rally on Jan. 12, according to the Oakland Education Association (OEA). And in Virginia, teachers statewide will march on Jan. 28 to demand more funding, according to grassroots organization Virginia Educators United.
The past year was a notable one for teacher activism, with six wide-scale protests and strikes in Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma and West Virginia. These movements started over long-standing issues like a lack of education funding and a decline in teacher pay. And in some cases, along with bringing more attention and publicity to these problems, these efforts have had a demonstrated impact.
In West Virginia, for example, teachers' demonstrations led to a bill that moved to raise state employees' pay by 5%, and it's not the only place that's conceded to give teachers raises. Not every protest has spurred legislation or policy, but at the very least, this momentum has still converted to more public support for teacher pay increases.
There are some who say holding strikes and protests isn't the best way to go about bringing attention to these issues, in part due to the disruptive impact on students and the possibility that other educators and administrators could get caught in the conflict. However, many school leaders and education policy experts say there's a need for teachers and administrators to be advocates for their profession and the students they serve within it.
Teacher pay and education funding are both complex issues, and for many educators — including those in Los Angeles, who say they've already endured "20 months of fruitless bargaining" — reaching a solution has proven to be no quick feat. It may be a new year, but these problems largely remain, and there's still a way to go before many of them reach a conclusion.