War on teachers is a war on students

September 10, 2022

From the September-October 2022 issue of News & Letters

In school districts across the nation all eyes are on 4,500 striking teachers in Columbus, Ohio, who agreed to return to the classroom after a three-day strike under a “conceptual agreement.” With signs like “Working Air-Conditioning” and “The Schools Our Students Deserve!” this army in red T-shirts sparked widespread parent refusal to log in to remote classrooms set up while the teachers were out.

One parent explained: “The plan was for students to begin remote… But there are no teachers… I refused to participate, to show support to the teachers and the mental health of the kids. We already did the COVID experiment… We are not going back there.”

Columbus Education Association (CEA) released a statement by spokesperson Regina Fuentes. “Let me be clear: This strike is about our students who deserve a commitment to modern schools with heating and air conditioning, smaller class sizes and a well-rounded curriculum that includes art, music and PE.”


Columbus and other mass teacher strikes in the past few years are but one form of resistance to the war on public education. Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” law aims at purging all reading material and activities from elementary classrooms aside from state-approved texts. In Sarasota County, teachers posted on Facebook that they were told:

“No purchases or donations of any kind of books or reading materials….
“If we want to read anything to our kids, we have to get it approved in advance….
“Don’t give kids any gifts tied to reading;
“Our amazing librarian can’t even do read-alouds with our youngest students…
“…what a devastating way to start the year. They are trying to break us…but they must not know what we’re made of.”

Texas last year passed a law to keep topics that make students “feel discomfort” out of Texas classrooms. It has been widely criticized for directing slavery and racism to be taught only as deviations from the fundamental direction of U.S. history. It also bans all teacher and student “activism” in education. This June the state board of education rejected a push to substitute “involuntary relocation” for “slavery”  in the second grade curriculum!

In Michigan, a proposed bill wanted every teacher in every school to make every topic, assignment, field trip and textbook for the entire year public before the first day of school. In Illinois, when just one parent objected, a book was immediately banned from the school library.

Perhaps the most far-reaching casualty of this war is that close to half a million teachers have left what remains of their profession. Reportedly, about 450,000 Florida students went to school last school year with unqualified, uncertified teachers.

Districts are pulling in military veterans, college students, paraprofessionals and retired teachers. Classroom books have to be state-approved, but the people alone in the room with the children do not have to be certified? The irony remains that students could benefit greatly from all these folks in their classrooms, working cooperatively with an adequate number of qualified teachers.

—Susan Van Gelder and Erica Rae

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *