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Why We Must Value Educators

May 8, 2018

It cannot be overlooked that this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week comes on the heels of teacher strikes in five states: West Virginia, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arizona and Kentucky. In each of these states, educators have demanded better wages, additional resources for students, and smaller class sizes. Unfortunately, the systemic under-appreciation of teachers is part of a wider trend of divestment from public education since the financial crisis of 2008. Over the last decade, teacher salaries adjusted for inflation have fallen almost 5 percent. At the same time, class sizes have increased and support for mental health professionals, counselors, librarians and other support staff has decreased. The divestment from public education has no starker impact than in Black and Brown communities.

On the day where the nation stops to #ThankaTeacher, below are three important reasons educators should be valued beyond a nominal “thank you” today.

  • They Are Key Stakeholders in Dismantling the School-to-prison Pipeline – Research shows that youth of color are disproportionately suspended, expelled and arrested at school in comparison to their White peers. Disproportionate outcomes in discipline are not due to differences in actual behavior, but the perception of these behaviors by adults in schools. When educators are adequately trained and equipped with alternative strategies like restorative justice, they can make a huge difference in diverting students from the criminal justice system. Educators like Brandon White of Rochester have used community-building circles in their classrooms to address issues like bullying and sexual harassment to transform the culture of their schools and address racial discipline disparities.
  • Teachers Often Bear the Cost when Schools are Underfunded – When educators lack basic classroom resources like textbooks, it’s teachers that pay the price. In low-income communities with weak tax bases, educators often pay for school supplies, project resources and even photocopies out of their own pocket. Systemic divestments in public education hit communities of color the hardest where the need for these same resources are the greatest.
  • Resources for Teachers Equals Wins for Students – Since the financial crisis of 2008, states have made deep cuts to student supports like guidance counselors, librarians, psychologists, social workers, school nurses, and afterschool programs. The elimination of these supports in the name of fiscal austerity have placed more pressure on teachers and have simultaneously harmed the health and well-being of youth of color. When we value the voice of teachers and the resources they need to succeed in the classroom, we can simultaneously create schools that are safer and more supportive for students, especially students of color.On Teacher Appreciation Day, to express our support of educators, let’s stand for the resources they need that help Black and Brown students succeed in and beyond the classroom.

Learn more about National Teacher Appreciation Week.