FROM: The DLCC
DATE: April 16, 2018
For years, state Republicans have sabotaged our education systems and failed to protect teachers, who dedicate their lives to serving their communities. Now teachers in red states are fighting back.
In West Virginia…
- Thanks to years of Republican-led attacks on unions, it was technically illegal for teachers to strike in West Virginia. However, conditions were so unacceptable, they walked out anyway.
- How did things get so bad?
- West Virginia was one of only five states where teacher wages went down between 2015 and 2016.
- Meanwhile, new rules passed by state Republicans increased the cost of health care for state employees and the cost of living went up.
- Because of poor pay and shrinking benefits, the state’s teacher shortage was so extreme, that, in many schools, grades had been combined and teachers were teaching subjects for which they were not certified or trained to teach.
- West Virginia was ranked 48th in the nation for teacher pay when state Republicans acquiesced and gave teachers a much-needed 5% raise, ending an almost two-week strike. The last time West Virginia teachers got a raise was in 2014.
- In response to pension and benefits changes, devastating budget cuts, and insufficient support from their government, Kentucky educators united and called out of work, forcing closures in every single public school.
- How did things get so bad?
- On March 28, Republicans underhandedly passed legislation (S.B. 151) drastically cutting pension benefits for new and retiring teachers by hiding the cuts in a sewage treatment bill – a legislative bait and switch. In a state where public school teachers are not eligible for Social Security, the bill would phase out their defined benefit pensions and the bill’s fine print could empower state Republicans to make even more draconian changes later.
- While the protests started over the passage of S.B. 151, now Republican Gov. Matt Bevin plans to cut education funding from kindergarten through college. Bevin has responded to criticism and teachers’ concerns by calling his state’s educators “selfish and short-sighted” and accusing them of having a “thug mentality” and “wanting more than [their] fair share.”
- What’s worse, Gov. Bevin vetoed a bill that would have boosted per-pupil funding in the state, restored funding for school transportation and family resource centers, and ensured that teachers who retired after 2010 – but don’t yet qualify for Medicare – would have health insurance. Now, teachers are gearing up for a showdown with state lawmakers as they attempt to persuade the Republican-controlled Legislature to override the governor’s vetoes.
- While House Democrats pushed to include mandatory raises for teachers in the state’s 2015 and 2016 budgets, the increase was a small victory and the state is still among the lowest-paying in the nation. Kentucky Republicans continue to push for tax cuts for top earners that the state can’t afford. But that may come to an end in 2018 as dozens of educators step up to run for office. After the DLCC helped put Rep. Linda Belcher in the state House last February, at least 32 educators have filed to run for the Kentucky Legislature as Democrats.
- Decades of GOP tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, shortsighted policies, and dismal wages left Oklahoma’s education system dangerously underfunded and its teachers strapped.
- How did things get so bad?
- Tax cuts for the state’s wealthiest in 1990 and again in 2004 account for about $1 billion in lost annual revenue, hitting education budgets the hardest: about $350 million in education funding is lost every year. At the same time, state Republicans slashed (or even credited) taxes for corporations.
- The legislature enacted shortsighted policies like requiring a supermajority to pass any tax increases and tying education funding to the volatile oil and gas market. When oil companies asked state Republicans to lower their tax rate from seven percent to one percent, Republicans obliged. When the oil industry hit tough times and its contributions dried up, the supermajority rule and the industry’s influence prevented a tax increase to fund schools.
- Oklahoma is dead last in the nation for teacher pay. The state’s teachers have not had a raise in 10 years, leading to a mass exodus and forcing Oklahoma to issue emergency certifications to almost 5,000 teachers in the last three years alone.
- Over the last decade, Republicans have slashed education funding in Oklahoma by 28 percent. Paralyzed by a self-inflicted $1 billion annual revenue hole, the state can’t even keep schools open a full five days a week. Teachers haven’t seen a raise since 2008, while classroom sizes grow, school staff dwindles, and out-of-date teaching materials become antiques.
- After nine days, the Oklahoma teacher walkout ended after it became clear that state Republicans wouldn’t “budge an inch on any more revenue for public education.” Teachers have pledged to continue the fight for more school funding and higher pay. As strikes spread in red states throughout the country, teachers in Arizona and Arkansas are paying close attention…
- Educators recently participated in “walk-ins,” rallying outside the schools to protest low wages, overstuffed classrooms, and a lack of education funding before walking in to the school together to teach their classes.
- How did things get so bad?
- Educators are saying Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and the Republican-controlled Legislature have failed Arizona’s students and teachers by not adequately funding public education. And it’s true: Arizona cut more per-pupil funding to K-12 public schools than any other state from 2008-2015.
- After recently cutting per-pupil funding even further, Arizona will spend less per student in 2018 than it did in 2008. In the past decade, Arizona Republicans have managed to reduce per-pupil funding by a whopping 36.6 percent – the biggest such decrease in the nation and about $4,000 less than the national average.
- While Arizona Republicans were slashing education funding, they were also cutting income tax rates for the state’s top earners, exacerbating the decline of education funding.
- The Arizona Educators United coalition, a main organizer of the Arizona rallies, has for weeks called for the state Legislature to pass a 20 percent pay raise for teachers. The state is currently ranked 45th in the nation for teacher pay and while the last time teachers saw a raise was in 2017, it was only a one percent increase. Arizona educators are also pushing for state lawmakers to restore education funding to 2008 levels, enact a salary structure in which teachers are guaranteed annual raises, and to refrain from any new tax cuts until the state’s per-pupil funding reaches the national average.
- While teachers called for an immediate 20 percent raise that would take effect next year, on April 12, 2018, Gov. Ducey proposed a counter offer, giving teachers a “net pay increase” of 20 percent by 2020. The fight for better education funding and fair pay continues in Arizona.
- In early April, the Arkansas Education Association (AEA) held a statewide meeting of its members to discuss the national wave of walkouts and what it means for Arkansas. The AEA said its members are “inspired by the actions taken by their colleagues across the country.”
- While Arkansas is spending more in per-pupil funding in 2018 than it was in 2008, the increase is negligible at only two percent. And while teacher pay in the state isn’t in the bottom ten in the nation, it’s very close to it.
- Arkansas teachers have said they may wait until the General Assembly reconvenes in January 2019 to stage a full-fledged walkout, and eyes are on The Land of Opportunity State as its educators contemplate if that “opportunity” extends to them.
Democrats are fighting for our students and teachers every day in statehouses across the country.
State Democrats understand that the quality of a child’s education and the opportunities open to them should not depend on their zip code. In states where Democrats hold legislative majorities, lawmakers are ensuring more students have access to a quality education and teachers are protected and treated fairly:
- Of the eight states where Democrats have majorities in both legislative chambers and hold the governorship, four are ranked in the top 10 for teacher pay and three more are in the top 20.
- Of the six states where Democrats have majorities in both legislative chambers, K-12 funding increased by an average of four percent between 2008 and 2015.
- In fact, eight of the top 10 states for teacher pay have at least one legislative chamber controlled by Democrats (D.C. is ranked fourth).
- Democrats in Washington enacted legislation providing workers with paid family and medical leave. These policies allow teachers to take time off for themselves and their families while still maintaining job security and a paycheck. Since 2012, lawmakers have boosted school funding by roughly $9 billion, including $1 billion for educator salaries secured this year after Democrats flipped the state Senate.
- In Maryland, Democratic lawmakers passed legislation ensuring paid sick leave, which will benefit teachers and all workers. Additionally, the Democratic-led legislature recently passed a budget that includes an extra $200 million in expected revenue gains for future education spending. The legislature also gave final approval to a ballot measure that will allow voters to decide whether the state’s casino money should go toward funding K-12 education.
- While the New York state Senate was under Republican control when the budget was passed, state Democrats succeeded in ensuring a $1 billion increase in funding for K-12 education.
- California’s most recent budget included a significant boost for public schools, increasing spending on K-12 education and community colleges to $74.5 billion, putting the state’s per-pupil funding at roughly $11,000, essentially equal to the national average.
- After the DLCC flipped both chambers of the Nevada Legislature in 2016, Nevada Democrats successfully protected the state’s public schools by blocking Republican attempts to institute an Educational Savings Account (ESA) program that would have used $60 million in taxpayer dollars to subsidize private education instead of providing access to quality education for all Nevadans.
With Democrats setting candidate recruitment records nationwide and educators stepping up to run themselves, we can fix the damage done to our schools by turning red states blue.
OUR RECENTLY ELECTED EDUCATORS
Rep. Karen Gaddis, OK HD-75
Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, OK HD-46
Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, VA HD-02
Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, VA HD-72
Rep. Linda Belcher, KY HD-49
SOME DEMOCRATIC EDUCATORS ON THE BALLOT IN NOVEMBER
Christine Marsh, AZ SD-28
Sharon Quirk-Silva, CA AD-65
Brianna Buentello, CO HD-47
Kerry Donovan, CO SD-05
Julie McCluskie, CO HD-61
Barbara McLachlan, CO HD-59
Kayser Enneking, FL SD-08
Anna Eskamani, FL HD-47
Melanie Wright, IN HD-35
Laura Fortman, ME SD-13
Karen Kusiak, ME SD-16
Darrin Camilleri, MI HD-23
Leesha Ford, MT HD-21
Ginger Garner, NC SD-02
Erica D. Smith, NC SD-03
Don Davis, NC SD-05
Joe Webb, NC SD-06
Ben Clark, NC SD-21
Valerie P. Foushee, NC SD-23
Cheraton Love, NC SD-29
Jen Mangrum, NC SD-30
Beniah McMiller, NC SD-34
Caroline L. Walker, NC SD-35
Ann Harlan, NC SD-39
Ric Vandett, NC SD-42
Norm Bossert, NC SD-48
Bobby Kuppers, NC SD-50
Mark Vallone, NH HD Rockingham-09
Sue Mullen, NH HD Hillsborough-07
Jeff Woodburn, NH SD-01
Kevin Cavanaugh, NH SD-16
Natalie Figueroa, NM HD-30
Brittney Miller, NV AD-05
Carolyn Committa, PA HD-156
Gwenn Burud, TX SD-09
Mike Midler, TX HD-16
Joe Deshotel, TX HD-22
Erin Zwiener, TX HD-45
Rebecca Bell-Metereau, TX HD-45
James Talarico, TX HD-52
Jason Rogers, TX HD-57
Drew Landry, TX HD-83
Mike Purcell, TX HD-86
Nancy Bean, TX HD-93
Beth Llewellyn McLaughlin, TX HD-97
Ana-Maria Ramos, TX HD-102
Joanna Cattanach, TX HD-108
Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, TX HD-120
Alma A. Allen, TX HD-131
For more information or to schedule an interview with the DLCC, please contact Mara Sloan at [email protected].
You can find a PDF version of this memo [here].