Over the past few weeks, Scarborough teachers, together with students and parents, have been rallying to win the support they need to provide a high-quality public education. They are part of a nationwide grassroots movement demanding real investment in our schools, instead of tax cuts for large profitable corporations and the billionaire class. I am proud to stand in solidarity with them and with educators all over the country in this important struggle.

It is unacceptable that in Scarborough, the school board wants to cut paid class preparation hours when teachers are already working overtime on their lesson plans. It is unacceptable that the minimum starting salary for Maine teachers is $40,000 and that the average pay is 20 percent below that of comparably trained professionals. And it is unacceptable that because of funding shortages, collectively Maine teachers will spend more than $5 million of their own money on school supplies this year.

These conditions are not unique to Maine. For years, public education has been under attack all over this country. State after state has cut funding, underpaid our teachers and forced them to teach to the test, and allowed segregation in our schools to rise. Betsy DeVos and her billionaire friends want to continue this assault until our country’s public education system has been completely dismantled and privatized.

Fortunately, educators all over this country are saying “Enough is enough!” In states as diverse as West Virginia and Arizona, Oklahoma and California, teachers have gone on strike for more funding for public schools, better pay for educators and support staff, and smaller class sizes. Just like in Maine, teacher strikes are illegal in many of these states. But that has not stopped them from doing whatever it takes to fight for the schools their students deserve.

In my presidential campaign, I have spoken about a political revolution in this country. The Scarborough teachers’ struggle is an important part of that revolution. This is a fight for just working conditions for all, which for teachers means paid preparation time so they can go into class with confidence each day. It means eliminating the teacher pay penalty and high-stakes testing so that our best and brightest are drawn to this important profession. It means ending the unconscionable reality of per-student funding varying so much depending on your zip code.

Together, we can accomplish these things, and more. We can establish a national minimum salary of $60,000 per year so that no teacher has to work a second or third job to make ends meet. We can provide funds for out-of-pocket expenses so no teacher has to spend his or her own money on school supplies. We can triple funding for Title I schools and set a fair baseline level of funding for all students. We can hire more special education teachers, school psychologists, and social workers, so every student has the support they need to succeed. And we can put an end to draconian, high-stakes testing that places so much stress on teachers and students and takes the joy out of learning.

The Wall Street executives and billionaire allies like Betsy DeVos and the Walton family do not want this to happen. They believe they are entitled to pay next to nothing in taxes and to profit off anything and everything, including our public schools. But they are not the majority. When millions of us stand together and fight, we have a power they cannot stop.

So this new year, let’s follow the lead of the teachers in Scarborough and all over the country and together fight for the kind of investments in public education that our communities need.


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