Teacher strikes in Ohio, Arizona, Oklahoma and West Virginia have put the topic on the front page again. Here in North Carolina, last May’s teacher walkout – organized by the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE); brought much attention to the issue of teacher pay.
Unions tell us money is the main issue in most strikes. However, when you consider what happened recently in West Virginia, it makes you wonder.
In February, teachers in West Virginia went on strike because a bill included funding for education savings accounts ($3.1 million) and charter schools ($5.5 million). West Virginia is one of a handful of states that currently has no charter schools. Nat Malkus wrote in The Hill about how teachers in West Virginia weren’t really striking about money. Teachers wanted to kill reform efforts – and were willing to strike – even if it cost them a lot of money. Referring to provisions in the major education bill, Markus writes:
But the other big-ticket provisions in the bill are getting far less attention. First among these is another 5 percent raise for teachers, on top of last year’s raise, at a total estimated annual cost of over $45 million. In addition, the bill included a $250 tax credit for teachers’ school supplies (totaling $3.9 million if 80 percent of West Virginia’s nearly 20,000 teachers claim it), a $500 bonus for teachers not absent more than four days per year (totaling $7.9 million if 80 percent receive it), a $2,000 bonus for certified math teachers (estimated at $700,000 for 350 teachers), and an additional $24 million in student support personnel. In sum, SB 451 promised about $84 million annually for traditional public schools, substantially more than was secured for schools in last year’s famed strike.
Despite the additional investment in West Virginia public schools, teachers struck over educational spending outside the traditional public-school system of less than a tenth of current increases, and about one-third of one percent of state education spending.
There you have it. It’s about control. It’s true in West Virginia, and in North Carolina. While organizations like NCAE are working to raise teacher salaries, they and other groups are also working to end the expansion of the Opportunity Scholarship Program, limit charter schools and other programs that give students choice and access to quality educational options.
If teachers unions are really concerned with a child’s education, they would want that child to be educated in an environment that’s best for them, whether it be public, private, home school or otherwise.
Teachers unions want higher salaries for teachers and administrators. They also work hard to limit a child’s educational options. It’s something we’d do well to remember.