Democrats & Liberals Archives

Why Parents and Communities Should Support Teacher Strikes

Teachers of today have more roles, responsibilities, and opportunities than teachers of the past, many of them taking on leadership skills you once expected to see only in principals. These teacher-leader competencies can be boiled down to three core areas: instructional leadership, policy leadership, and teacher association leadership skills. Teachers are coaches and mentors for their students, as well as their peers. They’re fronting curriculum teams and finding better, more effective teaching methods. They’re creating institutional practices that can be used at other schools, potentially spurring widespread pedagogical advancements. In other words, they’re doing at least double what’s been expected of them historically but at the same pay.


People who roll their eyes when they hear about yet another teacher strike don't understand the reason behind the strike and the wonderful things that may come of it. These strikes work -- they lead to changes that impact the lives of the teachers as well as the students and parents. Knowing what the teachers are asking for and why they're asking it is the first step toward supporting them.

Teacher Strikes Lead to Change

When teachers in Los Angeles went on strike, they were able to reach an agreement after asking for smaller class sizes and more counselors, librarians, and nurses. The LA strike lasted for six days and ended when there was a vote to approve a deal with the school district. While the deal didn't address each and every concern the teachers had, it did address enough of their requests to make the teachers satisfied with the outcome.


Almost immediately after the LA strike ended, teachers in Denver authorized a strike. However, the strike was halted by the school district when they asked the state to mediate. The trend here is clear, though: Strikes lead to change, which inspires other unions to go on strike and seek change in their own districts.

Better Guaranteed Pay for Teachers

Strikes are often for better pay. Unions want higher starting salaries and more chances for raises. They want guaranteed better pay instead of having to trust an incentives-based system. These systems generally offer better pay to teachers who work in areas of high poverty or to teachers of students who score highly on tests. While incentives like these attract teachers to work in school districts that are struggling for more staff, it sends a message that those teachers are more valuable or working harder than teachers at other schools.


Higher pay can also counteract the expenses that teachers often pay out of their own pocket for things like school supplies or classroom record-keeping tools, such as document management software, digital organizers, and collaboration software for cross-curricular lesson planning. These tools are essential to teachers' jobs, but they are regularly asked to pay for them out-of-pocket. However, better pay often goes hand-in-hand with increased funding so that the school becomes more responsible for providing the necessary supplies the teachers and students need.

Smaller Class Sizes

In addition to better pay, or when higher pay isn't a concern at the moment, teachers frequently request smaller class sizes. This isn't so they have an easier time at work; it's so they can do their job better. There are a number of benefits of smaller classes.


For one, teachers can spend more one-on-one time with individual students. By feeling like the teacher truly cares, students are more likely to succeed. This also means that Students can't slip through the cracks as easily. Teachers can keep a closer eye on everyone, including the students who aren't paying attention or who aren't motivated to do well.


Furthermore, smaller classes offer fewer opportunities for cliques to develop among students, which creates a more cohesive and diverse group.


It also makes engaging with the class as a whole is more productive when there are fewer students overall. There's time for everyone to share their thoughts and opinions and to open up a better and more productive discussion.

Parents and Communities Need to Support Teachers

Change doesn't happen in a vacuum. Teachers need the support of parents just as much as they need the support of their union and other teachers. Parents can do their part in a number of ways.


First, they can communicate frequently during the first few weeks. Meeting a new teacher and having them meet a new student can take some getting used to. Communication makes the process much more smoothly.


They can also spend more time in the classroom by asking what their teacher and administration need for support, especially when they're going through something as controversial and stressful as union negotiations and strikes. Use your skills as best as you can.


Teachers don't strike for no reason. The outcome of a strike can have positive effects for teachers, students, and school districts as a whole. Not only are teachers happier when some or all of their requests are met, but students can get better, more attentive teachers who have the time and resources to do their job well. In order to prevent both minor and major issues, schools have to be supportive of their staff members.

Posted by jhamilton at February 13, 2019 1:03 PM
Comments
Comment #438017

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- “Alejandro Fuentes Mena teaches English to 5th grade students in Denver. He has lived in the United States since he was 4 years old, speaking Spanish just like thousands of others residing in Denver. But he’s not a legal citizen of the United States—he’s an undocumented immigrant…”

- “The DPS system has no idea how many of its 87,400 are considered undocumented immigrants, as public schools are barred from soliciting this information. Ten to 20 percent of the student population is estimated to be undocumented, and nearly one-third of its student population qualifies as English Learning Language—the majority of which speak Spanish.”


A teachers job is to teach. Not advise, train and coach. Trying to be the students friend and mentor negatively affects their job of teaching.
A teachers job is to teach the subject at hand. Not interpret different languages. Having to work around the language barrier negatively affects their job of teaching.
A teachers job is to teach at the level for which they are assigned to teach. Not dumb down their curriculum or give special attention to those who cannot keep up.
A teachers job is to educate students in important things that will help them throughout their lives, like English, Science, Math and History. Not waste time on nonsense like diversity and special interest groups.

I don’t care if teachers strike or not, but nothing is going to change until they get serious about fixing the actual problems.

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Posted by: Seojasa.com at February 16, 2019 2:53 AM
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jhamilton, good post, well written and well thought out.

The Denver teachers strike worked out well for them and I for one am glad they got their raise. They deserve it. Of course underpaying teachers is only half the problem with our education system.

Years of the Big Lie have brought many districts to the edge, IMHO. The current “it’s all about STEM” thinking will need to be re-visited as will the teach to the test mentality forced on students today.

Years of Conservative attacks on the school systems have led us down a dark road. It will be generations before we come out of the tail spin caused by conservatism in this country. We need to look to other nations and their systems IMHO ours is failing most kids.

Posted by: j2t2 at February 16, 2019 5:11 PM
Comment #438231
j2t2 wrote: Years of Conservative attacks on the school systems have led us down a dark road. It will be generations before we come out of the tail spin caused by conservatism in this country. We need to look to other nations and their systems IMHO ours is “failing most kids”.
Wow. It is amazing and almost unbelievable that j2t2 seems to agree that government-run education is “failing most kids”.

The problem with j2t2’s comment (as usual) is that j2t2 blames everything on non-leftist people, which is total nonsense, and reveals (again) j2t2’s socialist/leftist extremism, and deep hatred of anyone that disagree with him, which taints most (if not all) of j2t2’s comments.

That type of extremism, such as j2t2’s (as revealed here in many ways), is what has deteriorated education in the U.S. (which was once #1 in the world, but now ranks 21st or worse (i.e. the average for reading, math, and science).

That type of socialist/leftist extremism is part of the problem, because the government-run systems have no competition of any kind.
The freedom to choose, such as “school vouchers” and “school choice”, is part of the solution.

It is revealing, and a Supreme Court ruling was required to finally allow teachers the freedom to “opt out” of union dues.

Unions are always trying to force people to conform, pay, and participate in their unions; proving that many unions have no respect for individual rights. That type of extremism lacks a basic understanding of the basic individuals’ right to “live and let live”, and fails to see that a violation of one person’s rights makes their collective organizations rotten to the core.

That fact that teachers were being forced and/or coerced to join a teacher’s union is revealing, and that mindset is indicative of socialist/leftist extremism, that punishes the individual, rewards socialist/leftist conformity, and violates basic individual rights; rewards those that want a nanny-state that prefers government-run education and other massive cradle-to-grave government-run systems (which are almost always severely mismanaged, bloated, incompetent, and corrupt) that nurture a sense of entitlement and dependency on the unions and government; that rewards those that want to grow government-run systems ever larger (despite the already current nightmare proportions of corruption and incompetence); rewards failure and laziness, while trying to disguise envy and jealousy as demands for equality; and perpetuates the myth that many things should be free, and that we can somehow all live at the expense of everyone else.

There are many good teachers, but many of them don’t last long, because they refuse to conform to the socialist/leftist extremism that has infected many government-run education systems (similar to many other bloated, wasteful, corrupt government-run systems), which has (fortunately) given rise to more “school vouchers” and “school choice” programs in many states (source: www.ncsl.org/research/education/voucher-law-comparison.aspx).

The solution is not more leftist extremism, and more government-run systems.
The solution is more freedom and competition.

Posted by: d.a.n at February 18, 2019 9:56 AM
Comment #438265

Amen to your comments d.a.n.

ABout two years ago I linked to an article regarding the California “teacher of the year” who was laid off by her union. She had insufficient seniority to remain employed.

We all know the truth about teacher unions. They exist for the benefit of teachers, not students.

Posted by: Royal Flush at February 18, 2019 6:42 PM
Comment #438266

Amen to your comments d.a.n.

ABout two years ago I linked to an article regarding the California “teacher of the year” who was laid off by her union. She had insufficient seniority to remain employed.

We all know the truth about teacher unions. They exist for the benefit of teachers, not students.

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