As summer break comes to an end, teachers across the country will flock to stores purchasing school supplies with their own money, turn their undecorated classrooms into places of excitement and learning, and prepare themselves for another year of testing, low pay, and underfunding. However, following a year that witnessed numerous teachers’ strikes across the country for the first time in decades, teachers and school districts may also be preparing themselves for another wave of militancy.
This return to militancy to effect positive change in America’s schools has its roots in a concept that began during the 1960s known as Teacher Power. During the 1960s and 1970s the United States witnessed a rise of teacher activism and militancy that swept through the country. Buoyed by years underfunding for schools, low pay, and societal views of teaching as an inferior profession, teachers across the country revolted against state and local school boards to demand improvements in education and to their profession. This movement coalesced around the concept of Teacher Power.
While other movements with similar monikers, such as the Black Power movement, have been well chronicled, the Teacher Power movement has remained a footnote in the story of American social movements. Teacher Power has largely remained dormant since the 1980s due to a national rise in anti-union beliefs and policies, and constant tension with educational reformers who place the blame of educational failings in the hands of teachers and their unions. However, the recent statewide strikes protests in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona illustrate that Teacher Power has returned like wildfire, and this time these teachers might finish the job that their forebears started.