Teachers in Wyoming

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Teachers in Wyoming

Hank Hoversland, Head Editor

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The beginning of the year calls for the convening of state legislatures, which in turn brings people into the streets to protest. It began with students in Florida calling on their representatives in government to pass some real, common sense gun laws. It then turned to the streets of West Virginia in late February, lasting until the early weeks of March, when teachers walked out of their classrooms to protest their low wages and low funding within their classrooms.

The teacher protests did not stop in West Virginia; that was just the start. Since the teacher walkouts of West Virginia, teacher walkouts in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado, and, most recently, Arizona have occurred. These teachers, like those in West Virginia, have called for their state legislatures to pass a budget that includes teacher raises and more funding for the teachers in the classrooms because they are paying for basic classroom supplies out of their own pocket.

This naturally leads us to look to how Wyoming ranks nationally in its education funding in light of its recent economic downturn and proposed education funding cuts to examine if there will be a teacher walkout in the state of Wyoming anytime soon. Although the state legislature is not convened, the teachers of Wyoming can go to the streets to voice their opinion and go back to Cheyenne early next year so the legislature gets to literally hear their voices.

Sally O’Brien, a social studies teacher at Kelly Walsh predicts there will not be such a walkout any time soon because “the difference between Wyoming and these other places is that Wyoming is so local and everybody knows everybody. If I were to walkout and then go to the grocery store a parent could see me there and know I was a teacher and yell at me, whereas these other places do not see that sense of community.”

On the other hand though, O’Brien pointed out that “because of the localization and close proximity of family in Wyoming, everybody might understand this need to protest and walkout.”

According to Census Bureau data from 2015, Wyoming ranks seventh nationally in both spending per pupil and salaries and wages per pupil at $16,055 annually and $9,495 annually, respectively; it also ranks ninth among the fifty states and the District of Columbia for benefits per pupil at $4,041 annually.

Although Wyoming may rank highly in all of these categories, it is not a rarity to hear of a teacher in the state having to buy supplies for their classroom. Just walk into a majority of Kelly Walsh High School classrooms and you will not be able to find the most basic of products: Kleenex. This supply may sound simple and cheap, but with schools having kids in close proximities to each other, sickness spreads quickly, and the most common of those is a cold; with all of the Kleenex being used due to colds, the boxes purchased by a teacher add up quickly, especially with their meager salary, compared to other nations worldwide.

The Brookings Institution conducted a study of American teachers’ pay compared to other nations around the globe and found that while the United States does not have the lowest average salary for teachers, there is a major gap between them and at least eighteen other nations worldwide.

The federal government spends so much on their military, yet neglect to pay their teachers for the hard work they do day in and day out. So, if you are a teacher, do not be afraid to walk out and stand up for your rights and livelihood, and if you are a student or parent: stand with your teachers and do not be quick to judge if they do choose to protest their low wages because they work hard to educate you and your children to make their future bright and the future of our great nation even brighter.

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