Teachers have walked off the job in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma – and there are rumblings that Arizona could be next. Their demands in each state vary, but they can be boiled down to wanting a bigger piece of the pie, either for themselves or the schools they work in.
Michael Lindenberger, a member of the editorial board for the Dallas Morning News, is asking: should Texas teachers be next? In a column, he offers reasons why teachers in the Lone Star State should pay attention to what their colleagues in other states are doing.
“They are modeling behavior that is getting results. At least it has in West Virginia,” Lindenberger says. “In Texas we’ve had years of struggle to try to get the Legislature to make meaningful reform for education financing, and it hasn’t worked. So I think the teachers could look at this example in these other states to realize that they have a unique sort of leverage.”
One of the main demands of teachers in other states is an increase in their salaries, but in Texas the concern is about funding for education in general.
“Anybody can look at their local school districts and see that the share of funding from the state has significantly declined,” Lindenberger says. “It’s much more heavily on the backs of the local taxpayers and local school districts. That’s something that is a profound fail of leadership in the state of Texas.”
Lindenberger says teacher strikes are illegal in Texas.
“What they’ve done in Kentucky, where it’s also illegal, is use sick days to walk out of the classroom,” he says. “Calling for the teachers to walk out of their students I think is premature. Right now, teachers walking out would not accomplishing anything, but at some point you can’t expect change without people taking strong steps.”
In his column, Lindenberger says the Legislature cut the state’s school budget by over $5.6 billion in 2011.
“A couple years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that it wasn’t unconstitutional the way that Texas pays for its schools, but it was really, really bad, and called on the Legislation to fix it. And they haven’t,” Lindenberger says. “That’s something that everybody ought to be concerned about and teachers ought to raise their voice, whether they end up walking out of the classroom or not.”
Lindenberger says teachers should be involved when the Legislature resumes the discussion next January.
“The example of these other states shows a few things. One is that teachers do have moral authority, and leverage,” he says. “The relevance here in Texas is that we have tried a bunch of other things, including litigation, including politics. None of that seems to be working.”
Written by Cesar Lopez-Linares.