Why Teachers Are Occupying Wall Street: 3 Real Stories

teacher at occupy wall streetOne of the more well-represented groups at the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests -- besides moms, of course -- is teachers. And that's not just because the United Federation of Teachers, along with several other major labor unions, joined forces with the OWS protesters (although that's certainly helped to swell the ranks). Rather, it's because many teachers are concerned with two common themes of the protest -- economic inequality and corporate greed -- as they relate to and affect education. We caught up with three teachers this week who explained what exactly brought them out to the protest:


Above is Blake, a college professor, who carried one of the best signs I saw all day. Here's what he said when I asked him to explain it:

Teaching should be one of the most prized and well paid positions of any society. I feel like teachers across the board are underpaid especially in grades K-12 ... Education should be the most prized aspect to pour money into.

But it's not -- at least not currently. Instead, students are crushed by all kinds of debt just for trying to get a college education. And Blake blames Wall Street and the government for that. He wants Wall Street traders and bankers to be held accountable for the current economic situation and governmental regulation be put back in place to keep them in check.


teacher at occupy wall street

This is Ilan, a teacher at a Pre-K to grade 8 public school in New York. She explained what brought her out to the protest:

Our school has suffered about $60,000 in budget cuts, and I know there's a lot of press that there's not a particular cause or focus of this protest, but the larger issue is economic inequality and teachers are suffering so much of that.

Her friend and colleague, Liz, chimed in with what they are demanding from the government with their protest:

We want better allocation of money -- money to children not to big companies. We know that small class size works, we know that more one-on-one attention and small groups work, but all the money is going toward testing ... We work at a school that believes in small classes. I have 25 kids in my class. That's not a small class!

It's easy to cast the OWS protesters as a bunch of crazies with nebulous demands. But there's nothing crazy or nebulous about ordinary teachers trying to get better, more affordable education for kids, is there?


Images via Kim Conte

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