Forbes: The Facts Behind the Teacher Strikes

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Demonstrators protest cuts in pay, benefits and school funding at the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City, April 2, 2018. Thousands of teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky walked off the job Monday morning, shutting down school districts as they protested cuts in pay, benefits and school funding in a movement that has grown in force since igniting in West Virginia earlier this year. (Alex Flynn/The New York Times)

Reprinted from Forbes by Frederick Hess  on April 30, 2018.

“This spring has been marked by a remarkable phenomenon: the first statewide teacher strikes in recent memory,” writes Frederick Hess in Forbes. “The strikes have been greeted with glowing press coverage and a remarkable degree of public support. After starting in West Virginia, things spread to Kentucky, Oklahoma, and most recently to Arizona and Colorado. Given all the claims and confusion surrounding these developments, it’s worth taking a moment to explain what’s going on, why both teachers and taxpayers have valid complaints, and how understanding all this can help point the way forward.

“First off, the teachers have a legitimate concern. Teacher pay is mediocre for college-educated professionals, and has fallen over time. Teacher pay declined by two percent in real terms (after adjusting for inflation) between 1992 and 2014. According to data tracked by the National Education Association (NEA), in 2016–2017, the most recent year for which data are available, average teacher pay nationally was $59,660. In the states where teachers have walked out, average pay is generally substantially lower than that. For instance, Kentucky’s teachers rank 29th nationally at $52,338; Arizona’s teachers 44th at $47,403; West Virginia’s 49th, at $45,555; and Oklahoma’s 50th, at $45,292. …

Forbes 4/30

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Jeff Burman represents assistant editors on the Guild’s Board of Directors. He can be reached at

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