Press "Enter" to skip to content

Teachers strike across the U.S. for public education reform

The first teacher in history can be traced to 561 B.C., where Confucius was the first famous private teacher. Ancient Greeks hired teachers to educate their children; the pilgrims founded the first public school in 1635. A job that was once a simple, one-room profession has turned into a national and complex education system. 

Over the past few years, the U.S. has faced an overwhelming number of teacher walkouts and strikes.

 On Feb. 22, 2018, teachers in West Virginia went on strike to lobby for higher pay and lower health care costs. On April 2, 2018, teachers in Oklahoma took part in a statewide walkout, protesting low pay, overcrowded classrooms and tax cuts that resulted in lower statewide education spending. 

On April 26, 2018, teachers in Colorado participated in a walkout due to low pay, low statewide education spending and mismanagement of the state teachers’ pension: On the same day, teachers in Arizona also walked out to protest low pay and cuts to school funding.

The walkouts forced school districts to shut down schools due to the lack of teachers, and for a few days, students were in limbo. 

On Oct. 18, teachers and staff went on strike in Chicago, in the third largest school district in the U.S., for better investment in public school resources.

According to studies done by The Guardian, teacher shortages are worsening across the U.S. for most states.

Twenty-eight out of 41 states said they were experiencing teacher shortages and 15 out of the 28 states said teacher shortages had increased in the last year. 

Enrollment in teacher-preparation programs dropped from 691,000 in 2009 to 451,000 in 2014, a 35% decline, according to the study done by Lieb Sutcher, Linda Darling-Hammond, and Desiree Carver-Thomas called “A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S.” 

“This research underscores the importance of offering effective incentives to keep our best teachers in the profession, contributing their expertise to help others,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

According to a survey done by the U.S. Department of Education, around 3.4% American students—about 1.69 million—are homeschooled. In the survey, the concern about the environment of other schools was the highest ranked reason that parents were homeschooling their children. In a 2015 survey, there were 50.4 million students enrolled in public school and 5.8 million students in private schools.

Lily Stracener, a junior elementary education major, knew as a little girl that she wanted to become a teacher, and a big part that helped shape her dream was watching her mom teach. 

“I am not surprised about the teacher shortage. [Teaching] is not easy; you are working seven hours a day with kids from many different broken homes, and as a teacher you have to carry that baggage,” Stracener said. “It makes me sad all the stories about walkouts and shortages, but it also empowers me to do better.” 

Featured photo by Scott Olson/Getty