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About 1,000 Nashville Teachers Stage a Sickout to Protest Low Wages

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About 1,000 teachers in Nashville, Tenn., have been absent from school today and Friday to call attention to low wages.

The teachers have called in sick to protest Mayor David Briley's proposed budget that would give a 3 percent cost-of-living raise for teachers in the Metro Nashville school district. Teachers are asking for, and the school board has suggested, a 10 percent pay increase. 

Teachers have said it is increasingly expensive to live in Nashville, and a growing number of educators are leaving the district. The sickout was not orchestrated by the local teachers' union, although the union president-elect has spoken out in support of the protest.

"We are sick of losing great teachers. We are sick of not making public education a priority in Nashville," says a statement posted to a grassroots Twitter feed connected to the sickout. "Now we are here, advocating for ourselves and our students by taking further action." 


See also: See How the Strikes and Protests Affected Teacher Salaries


Briley's budget proposal must still be approved by the city-county council. According to the Tennessean, Thomas Mulgrew, a spokesman for Briley, said the mayor understands teachers' concerns. Briley wants to continue to increase pay "through a multi-year approach," and urged the school district to use money from an increase in operating and debt service funds to provide teacher pay raises.

Still, Amanda Kail, the president-elect for the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association, told the Tennessean that teachers haven't had a significant raise in 10 to 15 years. "People are getting pretty fed up," she said.

Kail, who is a middle school teacher, did not plan to call in sick on Friday, she said. There are about 5,000 teachers in the Metro Nashville school district, so schools have been able to remain open during the sickout. 

The Nashville protest is the latest in a series of teacher labor movements in protest of low wages and other education policies. Most recently, thousands of educators across North and South Carolina called out of work to protest last week. And in Kentucky earlier this year, teachers staged a sickout on several occasions to protest at their statehouse, forcing some districts to cancel classes.

But the consequences of the Kentucky sickout are yet to be determined: The state education commissioner collected the names of the teachers who called in sick, as well as requested any documentation to prove whether the teachers were actually sick. The state education department then turned the names over to Gov. Matt Bevin's administration. The state attorney general and the Jefferson County Teachers Association have filed a lawsuit against Bevin's labor secretary to block the subpoenas of the teachers' names and try to prevent the teachers from being fined. 

Next up? Teachers across Oregon plan to walk out of their classrooms on May 8 in protest of a proposed state budget for schools. The budget increases K-12 funding, but doesn't fully fund schools, according to the union. State legislators have until June 30 to pass a final budget.

At least two dozen school districts across the state have already closed schools for all or part of the day to accommodate the high number of expected staff absences.  

Also, Sacramento, Calif., teachers are preparing for another one-day strike on May 22 in protest of the school district. The district and the teachers' union reached a contract deal last school year, but the union has accused the district, which is facing insolvency, of not yet honoring the contract. The teachers' union there held an initial one-day strike on April 11

Sacramento is one of several school districts that signed labor contracts they now say they can't afford. Education Week recently reported that several districts, including Los Angeles, say they now have to lay off hundreds of teachers and central office staff, increase class sizes, and shutter after-school programs to cover the cost of negotiated increases in teacher salaries and school spending in next year's budgets. 

Image via Getty

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