After months of picket lines and school walkouts by fed up educators across the country, America’s teachers are finally gaining attention from Congress.
In response to the recent wave of teachers protesting outside of statehouses across the country against what they are saying are abysmal working conditions, House Democrats unveiled a plan on Tuesday that would redirect $100 billion in federal dollars toward funding education.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, flanked by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, announced the plan on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
“We’re here because teachers are marching on state capitols across the country,” Schumer said. “Teachers of America, the Democrats hear you loud and clear.”
According to its website, the plan would see $50 billion dedicated to increasing teacher pay over the next 10 years, with another $50 billion allocated to funding “school infrastructure and resources.” It would also enact measures to safeguard the rights of teachers and other public employees to unionize — a major obstacle for states with right-to-work laws.
According to Democrats, money to fund the plan would come from scaling back on the tax cuts to the wealthy that Republicans included in their landmark tax plan, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump in December.
“The very wealthiest should not have such a large tax cut,” Schumer said. “I think the odds of something like this [education proposal] passing are large in the next several years. … Our day is going to come sooner than you think.”
The rub, however, lies in the fact that Republicans still control both chambers of the House, meaning that the Democrats’ plan likely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. However, in the midst of the 2018 midterm elections — and at a time when many analysts are predicting that a blue wave will likely sweep polling places across the country — this move by Democrats throws down a gauntlet to the red states that have seen the deepest cuts to education and, correspondingly, the most advocacy by teachers who want funding restored to pre-Great Recession levels.
It was after teachers in West Virginia began a wildcat strike in February that eventually netted them 5% raises, that educators in other red states began to mobilize in their footsteps. Teachers have since marched on statehouses in Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky, Colorado and North Carolina, and, despite looming school recesses for summer vacation, the momentum shows no sign of slowing anytime soon.
Although teachers have won modest wins in some states — including 20% raises for teachers in Arizona and raises amounting to roughly $6,000 a year for teachers in Oklahoma — federal lawmakers said on Tuesday that those concessions were unacceptable.
“Republicans are fighting to slash teacher and school budgets,” Pelosi said. “This is one of the dumbest things Republicans have done.”