What's Going On With this Year's Teacher Strikes?

2018 teacher strikes explained | IN 60 SECONDS
2018 teacher strikes explained | IN 60 SECONDS

This spring, teacher strikes have spread across the United States. AEI's Rick Hess explains the facts behind the strikes and clarifies some common misconcept...


Spring 2018 has been marked by protests and strikes by teachers in several states across the country, with the employees in these states demanding higher salaries for their jobs. In some states, like West Virginia, teacher pay was ranked last in the country, and a readjustment may certainly have been warranted. But is the "crisis" across the country, or just in a few locations? And is there even a crisis at all?

Education scholar Frederick Hess discussed the teacher strikes in the video above. In his assessment, the issue is more nuanced than just "teachers are not paid enough." In some states, their pay has been lagging, but that does not mean that there is a shortage of funding.

The notion that taxpayers are defunding schools is just wrong. Even as teacher salaries fell across the land during that period, inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending grew by 27 percent. But much of this funding has gone to non-instructional costs. While student enrollment was up 20 percent over that 22 year period, non-teaching staff was up by more than twice that: 47 percent.

While teacher salary may be a bit lagging on some places, it doesn't mean that on the overall they are not being compensated generously. Nowhere are they more generously taken care of than in their retirement plans.

Teacher benefits are also more generous than those of the taxpayers who pay for them. School teachers receive more than three times the retirement benefits per hour of work than the average civilian employee!

There is a deal to be made here, but any sort of new arrangement requires some perspective on the issue. According to one analysis of teacher salary, they are at or slightly above the average for similar degree fields. Hess slightly disagrees with this conclusion, but he certainly recognizes that though there may be an argument for some adjustments in certain states, it's not the national crisis that as some are portraying it to be.

What are your thoughts on the strikes? Are they warranted, or are the demands unreasonable? Let us know what you think!