The Teacher Strikes Aren’t About Pay, They’re About Mobilizing Democrats

The Teacher Strikes Aren’t About Pay, They’re About Mobilizing Democrats

Democrats and their allies among the teacher activists are following the playbook outlined by Saul Alinsky in 'Rules for Radicals.'
Kevin Boyd
By

Teachers all over the country are going on strike. They say they want higher salaries and education funding and the tax increases necessary to pay for them. But there’s a bigger motivation underlying the strikes — mobilizing Democrats.

The strikes began in West Virginia on Feb. 22 when teachers walked off the job. They demanded higher salaries and relief from increasing health insurance costs. The teachers stayed off the job until March 7. The legislature approved a 5 percent pay increase for all state employees. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice appointed a task force to lower healthcare costs.

The strikes spread to Kentucky. The issue in Kentucky was not teacher pay, but pension reform. The state, like many others, is dealing with an unfunded pension liability crisis. The state owes $43.4 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. Something had to be done and the Kentucky legislature reformed the pension system. The system moved away from the traditional pension model and more towards 401(k)s. Kentucky teachers revolted and protested at the state Capitol. The protests forced the closure of schools in around two-dozen counties. Yet, Gov. Matt Bevin stood firm.

The next state to experience the wrath of the teachers was Oklahoma. On March 29, Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill increasing teacher salaries by an average of $6,000. The pay increases were funded by the state’s first tax increase in over two decades. But, this pay raise and the tax increases that paid for them were not enough. Teachers went on strike in Oklahoma anyway starting on April 2. The 9 day strike ended with no additional concessions.

Then they came to Arizona. Teachers walked off the job on April 26 after rejecting a pay raise proposal from Gov. Doug Ducey. He proposed raising teacher pay 20 percent over three years, paid for by increased state revenue growth and small cuts.

But that was not good enough for the #RedForEd movement, which is the umbrella group leading the strike. They are demanding a 20 percent raise this year, a $1 billion increase in education funding, pay increases for support staff, and an end to corporate tax cuts. They’re also proposing an increase in income taxes on high earners.

Finally, Colorado has been hit by the teachers’ strikes and protests, which began on April 26. Teachers there are demanding a pay increase and are opposing pension reforms. However, due to Colorado’s unique Taxpayer Bill of Rights, Colorado voters must approve any tax increase to increase teacher pay and education funding. Teachers’ unions plan on taking the ballot to Colorado voters in November.

What do all of these strikes and protests have in common? They are taking place in states where Democrats are either trying to make gains or consolidate their power in this fall’s elections.

Democrats are trying to keep Sen. Joe Manchin in power in West Virginia. In Kentucky, Democrats are trying to retake the legislature and would love to oust Matt Bevin in 2019. In Oklahoma, Democrats are looking to build on their legislative gains in special elections and maybe even grab a Congressional seat. Arizona Democrats are looking to win the open Senate seat, grab the state Senate, and pull off an upset in the governor’s race. Finally, Democrats are fighting to retain the governor’s mansion, gain the state Senate, and grab a couple of Congressional seats in Colorado.

These protests are in line with other tools the left has employed to try and maintain momentum against President Trump and Republicans. Like the “Women’s March” and the “March For Our Lives,” these protests and strikes by teachers are giving Democrats and the left an opportunity to mobilize voters and activists.

What the Democrats and their allies among the teacher activists are doing is following the playbook outlined by Saul Alinsky in “Rules for Radicals.” These protests are part of an attempt to keep pressure up on conservatives and Republicans.

The attacks by #Resist and their allies are meant to come from different directions. First was the pro-abortion “Women’s March” that was designed to paint Republicans and conservatives as anti-woman. Then came the left-wing activist led so-called “March for Our Lives” designed to paint the right as supporting the murder of children by guns. Now comes the #RedForEd which is now designed to paint the right as anti-education and anti-children.

The frequently changing topics is Alinsky’s Rule 7 in action. That rule is, “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” The left knows that if they harp on calling the right “anti-woman” or even “murderers,” that becomes old after awhile. Now, they can attack them as anti-education. Surely before the midterms in November, the left will pick another cause du jour. It’s how they operate.

How can we fight back against #RedForEd and their teacher union allies? For starters, we point out the fundamental truth of the education debate. Despite the rhetoric of the left, more money does not improve education performance. The rest of the developed world spends less on education than the U.S. and enjoys better test scores.

Then we have to break the government school monopoly. We need to expand school choice options such as charter schools, vouchers, and education savings accounts. Empowering parents to choose what education is best for their children is popular among parents and increases student performance.

We also need to address the problem of school administrator bloat. The number of K-12 administrators has grown 2.3 times more than student enrollment over the past 20 years. Surely, we can find some more money for education by reducing this overhead.

Finally, if there are to be teacher pay increases, it must be tied to performance. Merit pay works and increases student performance. If teachers want to be paid more, they must earn it like employees in the private sector.

Despite the claims in the propaganda of #RedForEd, teachers are not underpaid and often enjoy benefits that are not available to most workers in the private sector. While we should be fair to teachers, we must be fair to taxpayers and not burden them with additional taxes.

Kevin Boyd is a freelance writer. He has been published in The American Conservative, IJ Review, New York Observer, The National Interest, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter.

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