An unexpected labor uprising has gripped some conservative states over the past two months as public school teachers have staged protests and strikes over low pay and strained education budgets.
And so far, the agitation has worked in some places, with Republican-led legislatures approving uncharacteristic tax increases and more money for schools in response to the public pressure.
Here’s a summary of what’s happened in four states.
Teachers undertook the first large-scale labor action of the year in West Virginia, no stranger to worker uprisings.
Schools closed in all 55 of the state’s counties Feb. 22 as public school teachers called a statewide strike.
The uprising came to an end after Republican Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill raising pay for teachers and other state employees by 5 percent this year.
Teachers, demanding $10,000 in raises, were on strike for nine days. The Republican-controlled state Legislature, in response, approved $6,000 in raises, passing the first tax increases by the Legislature since 1992. But further gains have been elusive.
Sensing an impasse, the Oklahoma Education Association, the state’s most influential teachers union, called for an end to the strike Thursday, saying that energies should instead be directed toward the November elections.
Teachers were outraged in recent weeks by a surprise bill that would give lawmakers the power to adjust the pension plans of new teachers. The changes were tacked onto a sewage bill, heightening suspicions.
On Friday, the Legislature overrode vetoes by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin to pass tax and budget bills expected to raise nearly $400 million and increase some education funding.
Bevin accused teachers Friday of putting children in physical danger by canceling school.
“I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today, a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them,” Bevin said, providing no evidence.
After an uproar by teachers and lawmakers, Bevin apologized for the remarks Sunday, saying, “I apologize for those who have been hurt by the things that were said” and that it was “not my intent.”
Demonstrations in Arizona have swelled at the Capitol and at schools as teachers demanded more education funding and higher pay. Salaries in the state average $47,218, 43rd in the nation, according to the National Education Association.
Last week, organizers announced their intent to organize a walkout unless teachers received a 20 percent raise. The pressure seems to have worked.
On Thursday, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey announced plans to raise teacher pay 20 percent by 2020.