Russ White: Women and children lead the way for education

Russ White

If this country is going to be saved from itself, it is going to be women and children who save it. From the Women’s March the day after last year’s inauguration, to the massive March for Our Lives on March 24, we are seeing the power of women and children growing and beginning to assert itself.

An arena where this growing wave is manifesting itself is public education. Seventy-five percent of public-school teachers in this country are women, and they are now fighting back against decades of Republican divestiture and neglect of our nation’s public schools, especially in deep-red states.

As with so much of the Republican agenda, public schools and teachers unions have experienced the “starve the beast” deprivation of Republican budgets aimed at forcing privatization onto the system. It has been a disaster in many of the poorest states in our country.

Teachers across the country are now standing up and, taking a cue from the Parkland kids, saying “Enough!” It started last month in West Virginia, when public-school employees, not just the teachers, walked out and closed down the schools in the state for nine days.

When the dust settled after the walkout was resolved, the teachers and the public-school system in general had won on all five of the major stances they had taken. While wages and health care were major issues they wanted addressed, there were also quality of work environment and job-security issues that were settled in the teachers’ favor.

And now, walkouts are occurring in Oklahoma and Kentucky, with Arizona on deck. In Oklahoma, the Legislature had attempted to head off the uprising by passing a watered-down package that was deemed insufficient to rectify decades of deprivation imposed by Republican budgets.

It has long been the stated Republican model of governance to “starve the beast,” be it education, health care, Social Security or government itself, by passing massive tax cuts for the wealthy and then claiming there is no money to “promote the general welfare.” See the comments of U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the need to cut entitlements, now that they passed their tax cuts for the rich.

Public education in red states has been a prime example, and the people who have suffered the abuse have had enough. Women and children are taking the lead. It’s about time!

— White, a retired fire services chief in South Florida, lives in Orange City. Send email to

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