Dear Commons Community,
Rebecca Klein, the education reporter for The Huffington Post, has an article today entitled, Why The Teacher Walkouts Sweeping The Country Are A Feminist Issue. Here is an excerpt:
“Yes, the teacher strikes that have swept states such as Arizona, West Virginia and Kentucky in recent months are a matter of substandard labor conditions. Teachers involved in the protests are seeking higher wages, better classroom funding and improved work conditions.
But underneath the outward fight for these workplace improvements, a more indirect fight for women’s equality is also driving the strikes, say some leaders involved with the walkouts.
An overwhelming majority of teachers are women, and leaders who have participated in the walkouts say they believe many of the reasons they have been forced to protest ― low pay, declining resources, lack of respect from legislators ― might be a function of their gender. It’s no coincidence either that the walkouts are coming at a time when women have been driving conversations about workplace conditions with campaigns like the Me Too movement.
“I think it is absolutely no accident this is happening to an industry, to a field, that is predominantly women. An industry that is seen as serving children, which is ‘women’s work,’” said Dawn Penich-Thacker, a spokeswoman for Save Our Schools Arizona, an education advocacy group that has been involved with the protests. “There’s that societal expectation of, like, you don’t need to be compensated, you don’t need to be regarded as a skilled professional, you’re doing this because it’s in your genes, this is what you do.”
In 2015, public school teachers, on average, made about $1,092 per week, compared with the higher weekly wages earned by all college graduates of $1,416, according to an analysis from the liberal Economic Policy Institute. Because the research compares teachers with all college graduates, the pay gap likely differs from what it would be if educators were compared with other graduates working in the public sector, and the gap varies vastly by state. But the analysis does show how much the gap has grown over the years.
Over the past several decades, the weekly wages of teachers have fallen drastically compared with those of other college-educated professional workers. In 1994, the weekly wages of teachers were about 2 percent lower than those of college-educated professional workers, but by 2015, this gap had increased to over 11 percent.”
The teacher walkouts combine and overlap two important social issues – feminism and government support for public education.