Mississippi’s K-12 teachers lobbied hard for a $4000 across-the-board raise this legislative session. After all, it’s an election year, when even stingy, “anti-big-government” legislators like to strike their most generous poses. Instead the teachers got a mere $1500 raise, less than 40% of their ask.
Joyce Helmick, president of the Mississippi Association of Educators, was not pleased. “We are angry. Our educators are angry. Every Mississippian should be angry,” Helmick was quoted by the Clarion-Ledger as saying following the Senate vote on pay hikes. “Why can’t this state’s elected leaders truly commit to invest in our educators?”
I have an idea why legislators – or at least the leadership that’s calling the shots – won’t “truly commit.” Simply put, Mississippi educators are not militant enough in their demands. They petition, lobby, present carefully prepared data, and cajole – generally “playing nice” with legislators. They do not march, occupy, threaten, or strike. Legislators count on teachers to “go along to get along,” as a result feeling that they have nothing to fear.
Mississippi teachers should take a leaf from their more militant colleagues in other parts of red America – West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona. Teachers in those states long stood for much of the same crap handed down to Mississippi educators, until they decided that enough was enough. They’ve been organizing, fighting through an array of actions, and as a result winning new concessions.
Disappointed once more, will Mississippi teachers finally decide the do the same? If they do, social workers should stand behind them in every way they can. The teachers’ fight is our fight.