The Republican Party has been waging war against our nation’s education system for decades and the casualties are starting to pile up.
The United States ranks 14th in education out of 40 countries ranked in that category. We rank 24th in literacy. Given these abysmally low scores, it makes sense that we elected an ignoramus like Donald Trump. A broadly well-informed and well-educated electorate would have known better than to vote for such an obvious charlatan.
But the government isn’t the only thing affected by the GOP’s war on learning. Teachers themselves are also feeling the squeeze. The Economist reports that in Oklahoma, schools in ninety districts are negotiating a four-day rather than five-day week so that teachers can work second jobs on their free days just to make ends meet and pay their rent. Many are being forced to work at Walmart.
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The pay hardships are in part due to a 1992 law that blocks the state from raising taxes without a 2/3 majority vote in the state assembly. The same rule doesn’t apply to tax cuts, so state revenues have been consistently trending downward. The Economist adds that teachers haven’t received a salary increase in a decade. Increases in costs of living have made it near impossible to survive as just a full-time teacher.
Many teachers have to survive off food stamps and public housing vouchers. Exorbitantly high health plans provided through a private system also take a huge bite out of teachers’ incomes.
In response, many educators are fleeing the state for more livable financial regions. 2016’s Teacher of the Year fled the state shortly after winning the distinguished award. The situation has gotten so bad that neighboring states have taken to sending recruiters to Oklahoma to poach the best teaching talent for themselves.
The entire thing is utterly disgraceful. Teachers have one of the most important jobs in our society. They mold new generations into caring, contributive Americans and equip them to deal with the larger world. Without them, every stratum of civilization suffers. People end up undertaught and underprepared for their eventual jobs.
Undereducation hurts decisionmaking as well, making people more likely to vote for regressive ballot measures like the one that started Oklahoma’s budgetary problems in the first place. It’s a vicious feedback loop.
Republicans would prefer shifting focus to private education, which would only benefit a small portion of the populace. It’s crucial that Democrats are voted into office so that they can devote proper funding to our education system and get our country back on the right track.