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movimiento obreroSupport #RedforEd: Trailblazing Teachers Fighting the Good Fight

29 de abril de 2018
Support #RedforEd: Trailblazing Teachers Fighting the Good Fight

by CJ Korpaczewski

Teachers' march

Across the United States, under the banner of the hashtag #RedforEd, teachers from conservative and underfunded states are blazing a path with new tactics of direct action, including self-organized workplace walkouts and creative bureaucratic workarounds that serve as an example and inspiration for labor fights coast-to-coast.

From West Virginia to Arizona, teachers mostly from Right-to-Work (for less) states, all of which do not call themselves members of a traditional union, are organizing school walkouts to protest legislation passed in their state legislatures that is designed to crush the public school system.

The #RedforEd hashtag and logo was created by a 47-year-old Arizona father, David Bays, whose design evokes the red used in past labor struggles as well as the fact that most of these walkouts are occurring in conservative so-called Red States.

"As a concerned parent, I obviously want my kids to have the best education they can get so they can be properly prepared for the next steps in life," said Bays. "This means we have to invest in our educators and schools." After seeing discussions on social media, Bays thought it was a good time to offer his (design) services. The father of two has a background in marketing and branding.

Teachers' march in Phoenix

"I suggested to Noah that I wanted to help create a brand (identity) for them that could coattail off the national attention that West Virginia teachers were getting," said Bays.

While most of these teachers from Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia work under legal contracts that forbid them from striking against propositions from their various school boards, these teachers are stealthily weaving between the letter and the spirit of these anti-labor laws by walking off the job as a protest to recently passed anti-public school legislation.

In Kentucky, public support is coming the teacher’s way in many forms, most importantly with food.

Restaurants such as Great Bagel, Willie’s Locally Known, Alfalfa and more offered deals such as percentages off food and drinks and even free meals to school teachers. In the past few weeks, teachers across the state have been protesting Gov. Matt Bevin’s pension reform.

“Our teachers are a really important resource so we have to pay them because teach our kids and take care of our children every day. If we don’t do that, we can’t expect much from them,” said Great Bagel owner Robert Swan, “we feel like we need to support our teachers and make sure that they are getting paid well and are taken care of.”

This is a new and exciting tactic meant to counteract the negative optics of teachers refusing seemingly generous pay raises. What these state governments are doing is actually offering teachers sometimes substantial pay raises, but those raises are cut from their state’s already dwindling general education funds.

The teachers know this will do two things; make them appear greedy for not accepting this “generous offer,” and it will bankrupt the public schools and pave the way for an education privatization profiteering free-for-all. That is the most important fact that demonstrates the unselfishness of these teachers—they are fighting for one of the most basic tenets of a free and functioning society, a secular fully-functioning government-provided education system for everyone—liberty of the mind.

As is the case with almost all of these walkouts, the teachers are walking out to directly protest how the funding flows by insisting that their raises are untethered from the general education funds, and funded solely from separate parcel taxes. As we must make monumental changes to secure our public schools’ future, we should act boldly and demand a capital gains tax or other forms of progressive taxation the oligarchs have convinced us are an impossibility.

Teachers protest in Kentucky

While some may be surprised that it is teachers who are pressuring the barricades and pushing labor forward, it makes perfect sense for those versed in the sociopolitical theory of uneven and combined development.

In this theory, disparate situations and conditions, whether it is inequitable levels of wealth and technology between nations or imbalances of almost any sort between social groups, creates an unstable environment that propels change forward, whether that change is negative or positive.

With teachers, they stand squarely on the precipice of change, as their higher education and societal interaction levels do not match the higher pay and respect earned by those with similar education in other industries.

This imbalance, according to the rules of uneven and combined development, requires one side to fight for what they have been historically denied—in this case it is teachers fighting for their dignity, their student’s future, and the future of public education in the United States.

According to Allegretto's most recent teacher pay study, “public school teachers weekly wages in 2015 were 17% lower than those of comparable workers—compared to just 1.8% lower in 1994.” This means that teachers are paid less than other college graduates in every state: In the U.S. teachers earn on average 77% of what other college graduates make. Michigan's teacher pay ratio comparison is slightly better at 82.7%.

"Despite the fact that I had secondary degrees, despite the fact that I am 38 years old, despite the fact that I do everything I can to provide for my son,” states Marisol Garcia, the Vice President of the Arizona Education Association, “when we were filling out the school paperwork my son was able to qualify for free and reduced lunch. It was the most humiliating, embarrassing moment in my life as a young, single mother,"

Teachers protest in Arizona

This ever-widening income gap between workers with similar high levels of education, has created a vacuum within the mechanisms of uneven and combined development—a vacuum, that when combined with other factors like the ballooning student loan debt that comes with teacher training, will either destroy public education as we know it, or thrust teachers into the labor-struggle vanguard where they lead the working-class to victorious gains—much like they do for their students in the classroom. It is beginning to look like the latter.

It is also important to note those who want a better education for their children must understand that such good education starts with good wages for teachers. There is no such thing as good schools run by poverty-stricken teachers.

Good pay also means a more stable workforce. Teachers across the United States are often forced to repeatedly move to schools in other districts or states when their low pay is coupled with the increasing cost of living. Experienced teachers are becoming a rarity as many are forced to give up education in search for a livable wage in another sector.

The duties and expectations of teachers are otherworldly, so should be the respect, pay, and support granted them.

Teachers are a rare combination of high cultural development, knowledge, intellectual studies and harsh social responsibilities (they are after all responsible for the development of children and teens and their preparation to fit in society and the world).

A teacher’s job is also psychologically taxing, as they have to deal directly with student poverty, discrimination, and racism while helping students navigate and make sense of the traumas caused their students by police abuse. Because of this, a teacher is in a unique situation, where their intimate contact with society and its craven ills, are unlike any other labor group.

Teachers also have the tools and opportunity to make a tremendous impact in society through molding their student’s education in social justice, history, politics, and economics. That is if they take responsibility as participants of a movement for social change and adopt a culturally-relevant curricula serving the needs of students from the working class, LGBTQ communities, as well as students of color.

The community, including some Republicans, are also pledging support for their public school teachers. Mariaelena Sandoval brought her 11-year-old daughter and held a sign that said, ‘I’m a Republican, I’m voting and I’m #RedforEd.” She said she had a “wake-up call” when she learned a teacher paid out of pocket for a field trip.

“I’m walking for her,” Sandoval said of her daughter.

Teachers marching

The ruling class still insists that teachers run holding tanks instead of schools, where a teacher is expected to simultaneously take a bullet for their students, teach solely from a corporate-printed text book, work for increasingly lower wages, endure hours without a bathroom break, all the while preaching the acceptance of bourgeois society while preparing their students for a lifetime of labor exploitation.

On top of all of this, teachers in many districts perform many hours of unpaid labor: grading, counseling, responding to emergencies, field trips and most spend their own money to procure elements necessary for the classroom or provide supplies for students who cannot afford them.

While teachers in unions make more money than those who aren't in a union: In 2015, teachers not represented by a union had a ‑25.5% wage gap—and the gap was 6 percentage points smaller for unionized teachers. This is why the teachers in conservative states, who lack union representation, are organizing direct action workplace walkouts via online message boards and Facebook groups. They are forcing the “professional organizations” that loosely organize them to quickly support their teachers for fear of being left in the dust by the swift action of these educators.

At one time, most US teachers were members of the American Federation of Teachers, and many still are, but an agreement with professional organizations like the National Education Association, siphoned some of their membership away —much to the thrill of public school privatization profiteers.

Like with all of the walkouts by teachers mentioned earlier in this article, teachers should organize strike committees and other independently created self-ruling bodies to quickly react to adverse conditions when their union or professional organization is sitting on their hands awaiting an absentee savior within the government.

We must rally behind these beleaguered but steadfast educators by supporting their labor actions in every way. We must develop an across-the-board unwavering labor solidarity through class-consciousness that transcends the dog-eat-dog dogma of the bourgeois oligarchs.

Workers in industries outside of education should watch the teachers’ struggle closely, as we are witnessing a sea change of actions and tactics of a newly-awakened and invigorated labor movement, A wave of class struggle will soon crash onto the once tidy bourgeois boardrooms, and if the union bosses do not respond or reform, they will also wash away the tired artifacts of labor bureaucracy to make room for a new breed of activism and class-consciousness.

Just like in our school days, we must look to our trailblazing teachers for guidance, new tactics, and new-to-develop political and economic philosophies.

It is time to fight, and don’t be late for school.

Upload this article to your wall, website, print it and help us circulate it. Thanks!

_______________________________

To all teachers from the Left Party and The Daily Socialist: we are calling upon you to contact us with the news of teachers actions in your District. Send us your reports, photographs of your actions, impressions. We are in full solidarity with your struggles and we’ll do our best to help build support and organize teachers in different districts. Please, contact us at: cepetroni@yahoo.com or at 1-415-532-7720 or to our Wassup (same number).

#teachers #strikes #walkouts #Organnization #RedforEd ■


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