Those Who Can, Teach. Those Who Teach, Run for Office?

AC BRAKE: The year 2018 has quickly earned its reputation as the “Year of the Angry, College-Educated Woman,” but in some more conservative parts of the country, this has been translated into the “Year of the Angry Educator.” Teacher protests and strikes have erupted in many states across America such as Arizona, West Virginia and Oklahoma over issues like teacher salaries and lack of funding. In my home state of Kentucky, teachers’ guaranteed pensions were significantly diminished after the Republican controlled General Assembly passed a last-minute rider onto a bill about sewage systems. We like to keep it subtle in Kentucky. 

Educators protested, went on strike, and now, they are not only running for public office, but they are winningas well. Hundreds of current and former educators, most of them Democrats, are on the ballots this Tuesday running for elected offices across the spectrum from local positions like school board to high-profile gubernatorial and senatorial seats after candidacies skyrocketedfollowing this year's #RedForEd protests. Education Weekcalled these teacher candidates the “wildcard” of the 2018 midterm elections. 

For the past decade, education funding has been considerably reduced around the country, especially in my home state. Society trusts teachers with the future, yet our representatives are willing to pass laws in which they are equated to sewage. A month after the Kentucky pension provision was passed, a former teacher of mine sported a t-shirt to the polls on Election Day that read: “Those who can, Teach. Those who can’t Teach, Make Laws about Teaching.” It is clear that teachers are through sitting on the sidelines while others make laws about their futures. 

My dad is a school superintendent, my aunt is a high school teacher, and my grandmother is a retired teacher, therefore many of these issues are personal to me. The teacher movements in America have not received much airtime compared to the more boisterous and star-studded MeToo and Time’s Up movements, but they personify an extremely important trend in the United States as well as in the Democratic party, not only involving women, but the future of labor unions and the working people as well. 

The education movements in this country represent a renaissance in the American labor movement, transformed by social media and mirroring the Occupy Wall Street movement. The #RedForEd movements have largely taken place in states where the rights of unions have been greatly decreased as well; Arizona, Oklahoma, Kentucky and West Virginia are all states that have passed Right to Work legislation. These movements, the political action their members are taking, and, most importantly, their success, prove the vitality of unions.They have been knocked down but they are getting back up and they are getting elected to make laws about their own futures.

Max Magid