Public Education is Under Attack

Why a National Educator’s Strike is needed

As I start my journey into teaching profession I am beginning to realize what is at stake for each student that will walk into my classroom. The public-school education system is a barrier to many people. I think about this often, especially because I am becoming a special education teacher and when taking my classes I realized how much I impact the social mobility of my students. This worry was heightened when learning about transition plans. A transition plan helps high school students with disabilities transition to the life they will live outside of public education. Creating a plan for a student to transition out begins at the start of high school. During their time in high school, students are given guidance in reaching these goals. Such goals can include opening a bank account, learning how to take a bus, or knowing how to apply for jobs. These transition plans are supposed to be highly personalized with high goals so students can live fulfilling and independent lives.

However, this is not the reality of the transition plan system. Few students are given adequate counseling and often students are given goals that are set low. In addition, students are given little guidance to find their own personal passions or interests. This reflects as people with disabilities are underemployed, do not access high education, and do not have an activity to do for leisure. This leaves people with disabilities in the position of the subaltern today. The subaltern is seen as the lowest part of society. In our society, the education system keeps people in their role as subalterns. As a teacher, I can become a gatekeeper to people to staying a subaltern or not. To me, this is a huge responsibility and something I have not taken lightly. I am constantly worried about how my own internal biases will impact my students and how will be a gatekeeper to my future students.

This issue is not specific to special education teachers. Most K-12 teachers are white females and the impact of that work shows. Students of color are at risk to drop out and are not given proper guidance to access higher education. The education system keeps people in oppression. The achievement gap that is seen in students across the country is unmistakably a race-based gap. This gap widens when more identities such as race, sexual orientation, and disability are considered. This gap is widening and will continue to widen under the expansion of charter schools and the school voucher system Under these two programs public schools will see even more resources taken away and students with disabilities, low-income students, and students of color. Public school will be left for the few that cannot access private schools due to income, disability, or any other identity or social status that is deemed problematic. This will effectively segregate students into those worthy of an education and those who are left over and deemed too hard or not worthy of an education.

Detroit public school that was forced to close after a majority of students were enrolled into charter schools

So, this begs the question for me, are teachers the master tools and if you become a teacher can you dismantle the system for students. I do think teachers can create a path for students, but it requires teachers to unwilling to be complacent in the system. Teachers have a union to protect us and ample tools to create opportunities for students, opportunities that can turn into social mobility. I think a lot of teachers have stopped realizing how political the teaching profession is and that becoming a teacher especially public K-12 teacher is a political act. This power and responsibility of advocacy are more important than ever before. The public-school system is under attack in ways unlike ever before. Schools are becoming segregated once more and this trend will worsen with the increase of charter and the voucher school system. As teachers and students, we must do better to protect the future of education and we must demand better for students.

Now is the time to take active political action against the threats of public school. There needs to be a push to create actual demand for our education system, the works of the education system, and students to have the respect and to be valued properly. I think it is time for educators across the country to strike. In this capitalist society, our labor is needed to move the economy forward. If we refuse our labor at a national level, there is bound for some demands to be met. As stated before the time to act is now with so much on the line for public education, racial, and economic justice drastic measures need to be taken or else education will only be for the select few who can access (pay) for an education.