Above Photo: From socialistworker.org
HERE IN Seattle, the favored topic of small talk has shifted from the clouds and rain to the president and his incompetence. Students at my high school have formed relationships with teachers on that basis alone, and it seems there is no longer any political division between instructor and student. This general agreement is important for its own sake, but especially for the potential it creates.
As high school students and teachers find common ground in their opposition to Donald Trump, the two will see new opportunities to stand up for one another politically. The first such opportunity is less than a month away.
Seattle teachers recently voted on whether to strike for the day on May Day, but failed to get the endorsement of the union, leaving an opening for high school students to carry on their struggle. On May Day, Seattle students should walk out of their schools and show support for their teachers’ efforts.
Last month, members of the Seattle Education Association (SEA) voted on whether to strike on May 1. The strike would have been a platform for teachers to demand better funding of public schools–an increasingly important issue in the age of Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos– and to voice support for the rights of immigrant and Muslim students. If a strike had been approved, the teachers would have joined a mass rally at Judkins Park beginning at 11 a.m. and culminating in a march at 1 p.m.
The union leadership did all that it could to prevent this vote from passing. They shortened the voting period and required that the decision be made a whole month in advance, voting on the proposal just nine days after it was made.
Despite this, 45 percent of SEA voters supported the strike. This means that roughly 1,500 educators voted “yes” to a strike–an extremely high number considering the difficult circumstances.
Worth noting, too, is that many SEA members work in elementary and middle schools, institutions more hesitant to enter the political arena. The proposal was far less controversial in many high schools, with many of the “yes” votes coming from schools with 60-90 percent of teachers in support. At my own high school, for example, I have failed to locate a single teacher that voted against the strike.
Here is where the students come in. As the subjects of these schools, we can give these teachers the strike they voted for by walking out on May 1 and going to the Judkins rally in their place.
This walkout would build new relationships between students and their teachers and show that we are all in this struggle together. These relationships are extremely important in the times we’re in. With Betsy DeVos as education secretary, the fate of our public schools hangs by a thread. As students, we need to organize to fight for our schools and their funding, just as our teachers have.
This action would also build solidarity among students. Seattle high schools have a large number of immigrant and Muslim students, individuals who are constantly under fire from Donald Trump’s rhetoric. A politically charged walkout would show these students that in the face of oppression, we all stand together.
For these reasons, high schools students across Seattle should organize and walk out on May 1. Through shared support of immigrant and Muslim rights, and militant defense of public school funding, teachers and students can work together to make May Day a day of resistance.