Education Week - March 21, 2018 - 19
Surprise W.Va. Teachers Strike
Emboldens Activists Elsewhere
Alexander, R-Tenn., the Senate committee chairman, called his meeting with
DeVos "productive" and said he looked
forward to working on the issue with the
One area where there was little disagreement was the House vote on the
STOP School Violence Act, which passed
the chamber by a vote of 407-10 exactly
one month after the Parkland shooting.
The legislation was introduced earlier
this year to virtually no fanfare, but it
picked up dozens of co-sponsors after
the Stoneman Douglas killings. Written by Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., the
bill would reauthorize the Secure Our
Schools grant program. Grant money
would go to help school staff recognize
early warning signs of potentially violent
incidents. It would also fund anonymous
reporting systems to help alert law enforcement and others to potential threats
posed to schools.
The bill would authorize the grants
through fiscal 2028 along with $50 million in annual funding, although districts would have to put up 25 percent in
matching funds to qualify.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced
his own version of the STOP School
Violence Act in the Senate earlier this
month. Both bills have bipartisan backing. Both also ban schools from using the
grant funds to arm school staff or for firearms training.
However, it's not clear if the Senate
will fast-track its own STOP bill like the
House did. Senators may first try to work
out a deal on shoring up the national
background-check system for gun purchases.
programs. That funding stream is capped
at $57.5 million a year.
Despite the growing roster of students
using state aid to pay for a private education
in Florida, the private schools participating
in those scholarship programs face relatively
little regulation in a state known for having
one of the most stringent public-school accountability systems in the country.
Private schools do not receive letter grades
based on how well students perform on state
standardized tests as their public-school
peers do, nor are they required to be accredited by an independent agency and few
opt to do so, according to a review of data by
More Regulations for Private Schools?
And unlike public schools, private schools
don't have to track how many students are
bullied, drop out, or get expelled. If a private
school denies admission to a student, asks a
student to leave, or fails to act on complaints
of bullying, there's little legal recourse for
parents to challenge those decisions.
There has been some legislative effort this year to more closely regulate
the state's private school sector as more
and more taxpayer money f lows into
those schools in the form of vouchers.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers from Orlando have sought to require
that private schools hire teachers with
At the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa,
made it clear he thought that accused
Parkland shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas
Cruz, should have been into custody by
law enforcement based on his threatening
behavior on social-media platforms, prior
run-ins with police, and tips from before
the Feb. 14 attack.
GOP Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and
Marco Rubio of Florida also said the Broward County district's leniency towards
Cruz's behavior when he was a student at
Stoneman Douglas let him skate by without any sort of criminal referrals or other
red flags from local police.
A full and official picture of his disciplinary record at the school has not been confirmed. It's not immediately clear whether
the 2013 change to the district's discipline
policies, made in part to reduce law enforcement's role in minor on-campus incidents, might have affected local police interactions with Cruz and his arrest record.
Lee and Rubio also referred critically
Obama-era guidance that dealt with concerns about how school discipline policies
can have a disproportionately negative
impact on students of color. That Obama
guidance, however, came out in 2014-
after the discipline-policy changes in Broward schools.
But Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee's top Democrat, focused her remarks on gun control.
Also testifying at the hearing was Ryan
Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed
at Stoneman Douglas. "Where we really
stop the next killer is in our homes, in
our communities, and through our faith,"
Petty said. "The best defense against
the next Nikolas Cruz is in building up
strong families where love can be shown
to a hurting child."
at minimum a bachelor's degree and to
bar schools that have recent bankruptcies on their records from participating in
the voucher programs. Those efforts were
spurred by an Orlando Sentinel investigation which found several instances of
private schools hiring teachers without
any college education, fudging health and
safety records, and hiring staff with criminal backgrounds, among other things.
Currently, private schools do not have to
provide proof to the state that staff they
employ have passed criminal background
checks, but that will change under the law
that also created the new vouchers. The
measure includes other provisions that
should make it more difficult for schools to
falsify fire inspections, a problem exposed in
the Orlando Sentinel report.
Among other new regulations required
under the new law: the Florida Department of Education will have to make site
visits to private schools new to the voucher
programs, and schools receiving more than
$250,000 in tuition through the scholarship programs will have to submit annual
financial reports either to the state or to the
organization that runs and administers the
Although private schools are still not compelled to hire teachers with a college degree,
they will have to publicly disclose in writing
to parents or on their websitesthe qualifications of their classroom teachers.
By Daarel Burnette II
West Virginia's chaotic, unorthodox-and,
ultimately, effective-teachers' strike begs the
question for policymakers and K-12 leaders in
other states: Could this happen here?
In Arizona, Kentucky, and Oklahoma, at
least, thousands of newly emboldened teachers
have in recent weeks ramped up their pressure in the quest for long-awaited pay raises.
They've packed governors' press conferences,
staged rallies in front of capitols, and threatened electoral consequences this fall if lawmakers fail to come through.
"We want to make good-faith efforts at playing nice," said Dawn Penich-Thacker, a spokeswoman for Save Our Schools Arizona, a grassroots group that's organized teachers there.
"We feel like it's going to take guerilla tactics
in order to make it too uncomfortable for them
to just keep ignoring us. A strike is definitely
on the menu."
Grueling work conditions for little pay, combined with legislatures hostile toward new
taxes, can certainly be a politically volatile mix,
experts point out.
On the teachers' side, there's a sense of empowerment from the recent experience in West
Virginia. But actual teacher strikes are historically rare and are far from a sure bet that even
in states where sentiment is running strong,
teachers will get what they want anytime soon.
"If this could happen in other states is a really
good question," said Julia Koppich, a California
education consultant who once worked for the
American Federation of Teachers in San Francisco. "There's certainly evidence that this is a
#metoo kind of movement for teachers in noncollective bargaining states, but I don't know
how widespread it will be."
Across the nation, several factors this year
are playing to teachers' advantage as they flex
their muscles, even short of actually striking.
The Every Student Succeeds Act gives state lawmakers much more say over how they craft their
teacher evaluations, school accountability systems,
and learning standards. With the federal government now on the sidelines, teachers are playing on
much more familiar terrain in statehouses.
In addition, more than three-fourths of state
legislative seats and 36 governors' seats are up
for grabs this fall, and teachers have promised
to wield their influence in the voting booth.
Indeed, lawmakers have recently eased up on
teachers when it comes to some of the mandates
imposed on them under ESSA's predecessor, the
No Child Left Behind Act. State departments
such as in California and Maryland have
somewhat backed off their dependence on test
scores to judge schools, and a large number of
states have either lessened or entirely dropped
requirements that teacher evaluations include
Pay may be a different matter.
Between 2004 and 2014, teacher wages
dipped 3.5 percent nationally, while employeebenefit costs soared 29 percent, according to an
analysis by the National Conference of State
But getting teachers a pay raise is a potentially backbreaking undertaking. Pension and
health-care costs have squeezed state legislatures financially. Boosting teacher wages in a
state by just 1 percent can cost tens of millions
of dollars. And more than half the nation's taxpayers already think their taxes are too high,
according to a 2014 Pew Research Center poll.
"To raise the needle on teachers' salaries,
it's going to take a huge investment across the
board," said Daniel G. Thatcher, an education
program director for the NCSL.
In order to get a 5 percent raise in West Virginia, thousands of teachers staged a strike,
shuttering the state's entire school system for
almost two weeks. The subsequent pay raise
will annually cost the state $110 million, and
the legislature is contemplating taking that
money from the state's Medicaid program.
The tinder that ignited that labor action in
West Virginia is evident in other noncollective
bargaining states as well, where teachers aren't
able to negotiate their salaries with districts.
This year, the Kentucky legislature moved
forward a bill that would, among other measures, temporarily reduce the annual cost-ofliving raises for the state's retired teachers in
order to, lawmakers say, spare the state's pension fund from collapsing. If passed, it could
save taxpayers $3.2 billion over the next 20
years. The state is $42 billion short of the
amount of money it needs to pay its pension
obligations over the next 30 years.
Teachers there, in turn, have held rallies at
the state Capitol and warned they will stage a
walkout if the bill passes. Kentucky teachers
are not allowed to strike.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin isn't backing
down. In an interview with a local radio station
last week, he called the teachers "selfish" and
In Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, has held a special session in an attempt
to boost teachers' pay. Teachers there are paid
an average $42,000 a year, one of the lowest
rates in the nation and haven't gotten a raise
in more than a decade, partly because of the
dip in oil revenue that has caused a multimillion-dollar deficit. But, in order to raise taxes,
the state's constitution requires the approval
of more than three-quarters of each legislative chamber.
The state's teachers in 2016 ran for office en
mass and put an initiative on the ballot to increase
sales taxes by a penny that ultimately failed.
This year, they've rallied for pay raises once
again. Yet last week, another effort by the legislature to raise taxes failed.
The teachers now say that unless they receive
a $10,000 raise over the course of three years,
they will stage a walkout April 2-the day students are set to take standardized tests. (See
story, Page 1.)
"Raising taxes anywhere is like pushing
a boulder up a mountain," said David Blatt,
the executive director of the Oklahoma Policy
Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. "Our
mountain is higher and steeper than just
about anywhere else. "
While Oklahoma and Kentucky are safely
Republican, teacher activists in Arizona are
hoping to shift the state's legislature to the
Democratic column, and teachers have threatened strike over school choice legislation and
stagnant teacher pay.
A series of actions by the legislature to expand the use of vouchers and charter schools
has especially animated a Save Our Schools
movement. Activists there have in recent weeks
turned up the heat. Last week, 300 teachers interrupted a televised press conference held by
GOP Gov. Doug Ducey. Later this month, they'll
stage a rally at the capitol where they expect
thousands of their members to show up.
"The strike in West Virginia was definitely
emboldening," said Penich-Thacker of Save Our
Schools Arizona. "The feeling is, if they're paid
better than us and they went on strike, why
aren't we doing this?"
EDUCATION WEEK | March 21, 2018 | www.edweek.org | 19
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 21, 2018
Education Week - March 21, 2018
A Teachable Moment For 2nd Amendment
Student Walkout Taps Well of Anger, Sadness
Sick of Low Pay, More Teachers Prepare to Fight
News in Brief
N.D. Districts Can Substitute ACT For State Test
Study: Don’t Use ACT, SAT to Gauge School Achievement
Spreading Social-Emotional Learning Across All Schools
Educators and Finance Officers Team Up for Better Budgeting
Schools Struggle to Use Data To Get Better
Upcoming March Could Draw On Walkout’s Momentum
Walkout Takes Aim at Gun Violence
FACT SHEET: Students With Emotional Disabilities
Response to Shooting Begins to Take Shape
lorida Extends Private-School Vouchers to Bullied Students
Surprise W.Va. Teachers Strike Emboldens Activists Elsewhere
DeVos Still Challenged In Delivering Message
Shakeup in Office Overseeing Student Privacy Rights
MARY BETH TINKER: I Stand With the Students
FRANK LOMONTE: Student Privacy Laws Should Protect Students, Not School Officials
KIRSTEN BAESLER: Yes, Betsy DeVos, Our Schools Are Innovating
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
LAWRENCE BAINES & JIM MACHELL: The War on Teachers Comes to Oklahoma
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - Sick of Low Pay, More Teachers Prepare to Fight
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - 2
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - Contents
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - News in Brief
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - Report Roundup
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - N.D. Districts Can Substitute ACT For State Test
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - Study: Don’t Use ACT, SAT to Gauge School Achievement
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - Spreading Social-Emotional Learning Across All Schools
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - 9
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - Schools Struggle to Use Data To Get Better
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - 11
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - Upcoming March Could Draw On Walkout’s Momentum
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - Walkout Takes Aim at Gun Violence
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - FACT SHEET: Students With Emotional Disabilities
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - 15
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - 16
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - 17
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - lorida Extends Private-School Vouchers to Bullied Students
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - Surprise W.Va. Teachers Strike Emboldens Activists Elsewhere
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - Shakeup in Office Overseeing Student Privacy Rights
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - 21
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - FRANK LOMONTE: Student Privacy Laws Should Protect Students, Not School Officials
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - KIRSTEN BAESLER: Yes, Betsy DeVos, Our Schools Are Innovating
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - Letters
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - 25
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - 27
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - LAWRENCE BAINES & JIM MACHELL: The War on Teachers Comes to Oklahoma
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - CW1
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - CW2
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - CW3
Education Week - March 21, 2018 - CW4