The New York Times found yet another angle from which to attack the Republicans as the 2018 elections loom. Friday’s lead National story concerned various teachers strikes in “red states,” “Teacher Walkouts Threaten Republicans’ Grip on Red States – Years of Budget Cuts Push Education Into Political Fray.”
An intensifying series of red-state battles over education funding and teacher pay threatens to loosen Republicans’ grip on some of the country’s most conservative states, as educators and parents rebel against a decade of fiscal austerity that has cut deeply into public education.
As Arizona teachers pressed for higher salaries and more school funding, and Oklahoma teachers won some concessions from lawmakers amid a nine-day walkout, some in Kentucky continued their protests in favor of more money for education. Last month, West Virginia’s Republican-controlled government raised pay for teachers after a statewide strike.
The clashes could elevate public education into a major issue in several midterm races this fall. Republicans are defending dozens of governorships and state legislative chambers across the country, including in several Southern and Western states where all-Republican governments have passed sweeping reductions in taxes and spending.
Parents are apparently flunking the Republicans, at least Christie Abraham of Chandler, Arizona does:
Ms. Abraham typically votes Republican, but said, “I would switch party lines” in order to support candidates who want to increase education funding. “I am very disappointed in the Republican Party we have locally,” she said.
Both Republicans and Democrats in these strongly conservative states see the unrest around education as symptomatic of broader unease about years of budgetary belt-tightening that have followed popular tax cuts.
In Kansas and Oklahoma, backlash against severe service reductions has spurred Republican-held legislatures to enact taxes that would have been unimaginable a few years ago.
Most Republicans in the governor’s race, however, have not joined Mr. Jones in chastising the right and the party overall remains committed to a small-government agenda, including in education. Among Democrats in these states, there is rising hope that a debate over funding schools and paying teachers could help them appeal to normally skeptical voters to the right of center.
Reporters Dana Goldstein and Alexander Burns seem to want it both ways, encouraging Democrats while also selling the protests as some kind of grassroots non-partisan movement.
Yet it is far from clear that the education protests are tied to a wider Democratic agenda. Mr. Trump won overwhelmingly in states like West Virginia and Oklahoma, and by a smaller margin in Arizona. Union officials cautioned that many of the protesting teachers tend to vote Republican.
Talley Sergent, a Democratic candidate for Congress in West Virginia’s Second Congressional District, which includes the protest-swarmed capital of Charleston, said the walkout movement that ignited in her state was essentially nonpartisan.
A front-page April 3 story also used striking teachers to hit the GOP.
The walkouts and rallies in Republican-dominated states, mainly organized by ordinary teachers on Facebook, have caught lawmakers and sometimes the teachers’ own labor unions flat-footed. And they are occurring in states and districts with important midterm races in November, suggesting that thousands of teachers, with their pent-up rage over years of pay freezes and budget cuts, are set to become a powerful political force this fall.
The Times is certainly trying to make a liberal political issue out of it, soliciting criticism from public school teachers within the news articles themselves: “If you are a public school teacher in the United States, please tell us what you think of the current teacher protests and about the conditions in your school....”