Teacher strikes spreads to fifth state despite GOP threat of jail time


Teachers are riding a wave of national support as the fight for better pay.

A grassroots teachers campaign against massive Republican cuts to education continues to spread across the country. The deeply red states of West Virginia, Kentucky and Oklahoma have already been rocked this year by teacher walkouts in the name of fairness and equity.

The walkouts continue to spread despite at least one Republican effort to potentially fine, suspend, or even jail teachers who take to the streets.

On Friday, huge crowds are once again expected in Phoenix as Arizona teachers continue their walkout to demand higher salaries and better funding for the state's crumbling schools.

On Thursday, 50,000 activists protested as part of the nationwide #Red4Ed campaign:

Teachers in Arizona earn less money today than they did in 1999. “After deducting for the pension contribution and Social Security, the average Arizona teacher’s pay is reduced to about $39,800 a year, before taxes or health care benefits” CNN reports.

Even Arizona's far-right former governor, Jan Brewer, expressed support for the strike. "I’ve never seen anything like this in my lifetime," she gushed.

Also on Friday, 600,000 Colorado students won't have classes as teachers from across the state converge on Denver in protest. Teacher pay in Colorado ranks 46th in the nation, while local housing costs have exploded in the booming state.

It's in Colorado where Republican threatened to jail activist teachers.

Their bill, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Bob Gardner and state Rep. Paul Lundeen, would “prohibit public school teacher strikes by authorizing school districts to seek an injunction from district court,” according to local reports.

Under the bill, “teachers could face not only fines but up to six months in county jail” for striking.

All 16 Democrats in the Colorado State Senate have denounced the bill, calling it un-American.

In Colorado, schools are underfunded by nearly $1 billion and are $2,700 below the national average in per-pupil funding, according to the Colorado Education Association.

Nationwide, teachers are riding a wave of public support, with a new poll indicating a huge majority of Americans believe educators are in the U.S. are underpaid. A clear majority also support the teachers' right to strike to protest low pay and inadequate education funding. And an even larger majority supports less-permanent teacher walkouts.

It was teachers in in West Virginia who first sparked this mass movement in February. Teachers there shut down schools for nine days over stagnant wages and deteriorating benefits.

Republicans have waged such brutal war against education funding and for so long (while cutting corporate taxes), that at this point, lots of teachers see no other recourse than to abandon their classes to protest.

Said one education union leader, "They have got so little to lose that this is the option they’re choosing rather than be silent."