A few weeks ago, I received a call to speak on behalf of the Young Democrats at a union solidarity rally in my hometown of Mercer.
Organized on behalf of the teacher’s union, rally organizers wanted to incorporate youth into their message of solidarity because education and education funding are crucial for the future of this country’s youth.
Standing before an assembled crowd of approximately 300 teachers and other union tradesmen, I could feel a sense of urgency pulsing throughout the crowd. Newly elected Republican Gov. Tom Corbett proposed a budget that severely cuts funding to Pennsylvania public education to the tune of $1.2 billion, and the impact of these cuts are already being felt.
Many school districts have already released furlough notices and are cutting teachers— not the kind of job market you want to step into if you are an education major right now. The assembled teachers were outraged at such preposterous cuts in an already laughable budget, and they had a right to be.
Though these teachers are understandably upset with this draconian budget, they are not entirely the victims in this instance. Despite the PSEA’s endorsement of the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the last election, 81 percent of PSEA members voted against their union and supported Republican Tom Corbett. Does something seem wrong with this picture? Teachers and other union members will need to turn out in the next election and remember that their vote could mean their job.
It seems as though many in this demographic fell victim to the tea party and anti-incumbent rhetoric that swept the nation last November. Hoisting flags bearing the slogan “Don’t Tread on Me,” these right-wingers preached fiscal accountability and less government spending. While there is certainly less spending, as evidenced by Corbett’s budget proposal, the economic benefits they so direly wished for are further from sight than ever.
We are in an era of Republican politics in which corporations are paying little to no taxes despite record profit. Many in the middle class are facing unbeatable economic odds, and it is no wonder that people are now motivated to rally in solidarity for sensible economic policies.
As I stood in front of the crowd, ready to begin my speech, I noticed a teacher holding a sign that said “SOS: Save Our Schools.” If conservative politics continue through the next election as usual, it is not just our schools that will need saving. It may be our souls, as well.