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United States: California sues Trump over rules to deport foreign students home if colleges offer online-only classes

North America/United States/12-05-2020/Author and Source:

California has joined several Ivy League schools in challenging immigration rules that would send foreign students back if they can’t attend classes in person, claiming such a requirement would only spread Covid-19.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced on Thursday that the state will file a legal challenge against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), over their recent clarification of the rule that foreign exchange students would have to leave the US if their schools operate online-only classes.

“Today’s lawsuit rests on America’s enduring principle that everyone who works hard and plays by the rules can earn a chance to get ahead,” said Becerra, flanked by California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, and California State University Chancellor Timothy White.

Becerra’s move comes after Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed their own lawsuit in a federal court in Boston on Wednesday. Both petitions seek injunctions barring the federal government from enforcing the rule, in a tactic previously used to block the implementation of travel bans and visa restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump.

Earlier this week, the DHS and ICE published new guidance on foreign students’ status, clarifying that their visas will not be valid if the institutions they attend offer only virtual courses. Though the Trump administration ultimately prevailed, the cases went all the way up to the US Supreme Court and took years to resolve.

Asked about the rule, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany pointed out that visas weren’t being issued for online classes such as offered by the University of Phoenix, and that online-only classes from Harvard would be no different.

International students are a major cash cow for US universities, however, as they tend to pay full tuition rather than the discounted or loan-subsidized price most American students end up paying. California’s interest in maintaining this pipeline is understandable, since there were around 162,000 international students in the state last year.

This profit motive was pointed out by some advocates for “undocumented” students – illegal immigrants whom California treats like legal residents for the purpose of tuition – who say that it’s notable the colleges are protesting “xenophobia” only when it hits their affluent foreign students as opposed to “undocs.”

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Slavoj Zizek: In American protests, victims of Trump’s policies help the criminal erase the crime

By: Slavoj Zizek

Be they against the Covid-19 lockdown or police brutality, the protests gripping the US stem from a ‘money or life’ choice, where people are forced to choose money. The poor are victims, helping to cover up the crime against them.

Our world is gradually drowning in madness: instead of solidarity and coordinated global action against the Covid-19 threat, not only are agricultural disasters proliferating, raising the prospect of massive hunger – locusts are invading areas from Eastern Africa to Pakistan – but political violence is also exploding, often ignored by the media. How little do we read about the military border clashes between India and China, with multiple wounded?

In such a desperate age, one should be excused for escaping from time to time into good old formulaic crime series, like the British-French show ‘Death in Paradise’.

In one of the later episodes, the killer’s motive is the brutal humiliation and torment the victim had subjected him to in high school. Mortally wounded, the victim realizes what suffering he had caused, and uses the last ounce of his strength to alter the scene so that it would seem a third person had perpetrated the murder, in order to exonerate the real killer.

There is something noble in such a gesture, a trace of authentic redemption. But ideology finds a way to pervert even such noble gestures; it can compel the victim, not the criminal, to voluntarily erase any traces of the crime and present it as an act of his or her own free will. Is this not what thousands of ordinary people who demonstrate for an end to the lockdown are doing in the paradise called USA?

‘Money or life’ is not a free choice

Returning too quickly to ‘normality’, as advocated by Trump and his administration, exposes many people to the deadly threat of infection – but they nonetheless demand it, thereby covering up any traces of Trump’s (and the capital’s) crime.

In the early 19th century, many miners in Wales rejected helmets and other expensive protective equipment, even though this gear greatly reduced the possibility of deadly accidents which abounded in coal mines, because the costs were deducted from their salaries.

Today we seem to regress to the same desperate calculation, which is a new inverted version of the old forced choice ‘money or life’ (where, of course, you choose life, even if it is life in misery). If you now choose life against money, you cannot survive, since you lose money and life, so you have to return to work to earn money to survive – but the life you get is curtailed by a threat of infection and death. Trump is not guilty of killing the workers, they made a free choice – but Trump is guilty of offering them a ‘free’ choice in which the only way to survive is to risk death, and he further humiliates them by putting them in a situation whereby they must demonstrate for their ‘right’ to die at their place of work.

One should contrast these protests against the lockdown with the ongoing explosion of rage triggered by another death in the American paradise, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Although the rage of the thousands of black people protesting this act of police violence is not directly linked to the pandemic, it is easy to discern from their background the clear lesson of the Covid-19 death statistics: black and Hispanic people have a much greater chance of dying due to the virus than white Americans. The outbreak has thus brought out the very material consequences of class differences in the US: it’s not just a question of wealth and poverty, it is also quite literally a matter of life and death, both when dealing with police and when dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

And this brings us back to our starting point from ‘Death in Paradise’, to the noble gesture of the victim helping the perpetrator to erase all trace of his act – an act which was, if not justified, at least understandable as an act of despair. Yes, the black protesters are often violent, but we should show their violence a little bit of the same leniency as the victim does towards his killer in the ‘Death in Paradise’ episode.

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The snitch in your pocket: How Silicon Valley uses advertising tech to spy on your lockdown behavior

By: Russia Today

Police can’t catch everyone violating lockdown orders, but your smartphone can. Various apps give information to third parties who share it with other people who you may not want to trace you.

The US is split on how and when to lift lockdown measures. Georgia, for instance, has been reopening since last month, while the city of Los Angeles will likely force its citizens to stay at home until August, officials said on Tuesday.

Discontent with these measures has grown. Californians upset with their canceled summer have warned of the potential for riots, a warning that looks realistic after crowds of sun worshippers descended onto Orange County’s closed beaches earlier this month, in defiance of the armed police enforcing their closure. From Michigan to Massachusetts, protesters have picketed statehouses across the country, demanding their governors end the lockdown.

Amid the protests and debate, big tech is keeping a watchful eye on just how closely Americans are following the rules, and the media is watching too.

A New York Times report on Tuesday revealed that in both open and closed states, Americans are starting to venture further from their homes again. To arrive at this conclusion, the Times pored over the cellphone data of 15 million American citizens. Movement data gleaned from their smartphones was plotted against census data to calculate what percentage of people were wandering.

Implicit in the article was the shaming of those people leaving their homes. Citing “experts,” the Times noted that increased movement could lead to “additional waves in new coronavirus infections and deaths,” and reminded readers that “social distancing has proven one of the most effective means to curb the spread of the virus.”

If readers don’t remember giving the New York Times permission to track their movements, that’s because they didn’t. Rather, the data was provided by Cuebiq, an “offline intelligence and measurement company” that’s amassed a value of up to $162 million by gathering and selling cellphone data to advertisers.

Smartphone users didn’t offer this data directly to Cuebiq either. Instead, when a person installs one of around 180 mobile apps partnered up with the firm, they grant the app permission to send their data to Cuebiq. These apps include MyRadar NOAA Weather Radar, Photobucket, Tapatalk, and several popular coupon apps.

According to several reports by TechCrunch and the Guardian in 2018, these apps give “little to no mention” that sensitive data will be shared with third parties like Cuebiq.

Cuebiq’s website is a repository of Silicon Valley evangelism. Under its stated mission of “data for good,” the firm says that it provides access to location data “to the scientific community in order to share our insights and create positive action in the service of humanity.”

However, behind the humanitarian front, Cuebiq is first and foremost a money-making enterprise. Retailers, for instance, pay the firm to track the offline behavior of potential customers who’ve seen their ads. Corporations of all kinds pay to know which customers are likely to buy their products, based on their offline behavior.

Naturally, the idea that a hidden opt-in clause is all that prevents a person being analyzed, tracked, broken down into data points and sold, has raised privacy concerns. The New York Times even addressed these last month when tech writer Jennifer Valentino-DeVries discussed her use of Cuebiq’s data.

Valentino-DeVries waved away these concerns. Even though she admitted that this data is “intrusive” and far from “anonymous,” she argued that privacy is less important in the midst of a “public health crisis.” 

Readers, however, might disagree. Likewise, if corporations can use data gathered by firms like Cuebiq to predict consumer behavior as accurately as the firm boasts, it follows that such data should not be handed over to media outlets, and potentially state actors, without at least a public debate.

Still, as long as users continue to swipe through app permissions, these companies will continue to turn a buck at the expense of privacy.

Cubeiq is not the only firm to direct its data-gathering powers at the coronavirus issue. Norwegian startup Unacast, whose bread and butter is audience analysis, has launched an Orwellian-sounding ‘Social Distancing Scoreboard’ that rates every US state and county on how obediently its citizens are following the lockdown rules.

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New US campus sex assault plan gets pushback

North America/United States/10-05-2020/Author and Source:

US universities must hold hearings on campus sexual assault claims where alleged victims and attackers can be cross-examined, according to federal guidelines.

The mandate is part of a new set of US Department of Education rules on how places of learning must handle sexual misconduct cases.

The agency said the rules will ensure fairness to accusers and accused.

Critics said they will discourage victims from reporting attacks.

The new policy, issued on Wednesday following an 18-month review, limits what complaints private and public universities are obliged to investigate and raises the burden for holding a school liable for sexual assault.

They have until August to comply with the rules, which are a marked shift for addressing how universities enforce Title IX, the federal law barring discrimination in education based on gender.

The previous administration had sought to expand university responsibility for sexual misconduct on campuses under Title IX.

Under the Trump administration rules, the institutions are required to provide a live hearing and allow advisers to cross-question parties and witnesses involved – a practice discouraged by the previous administration.

In announcing the policy, Betsey DeVos, the education secretary, said: «Too many students have lost access to their education because their school inadequately responded when a student filed a complaint of sexual harassment or sexual assault.

«This new regulation requires schools to act in meaningful ways to support survivors of sexual misconduct, without sacrificing important safeguards to ensure a fair and transparent process.»

Some initial rules to limit schools’ liabilities and apply the requirement for hearings to secondary school pupils Ms DeVos proposed in November 2018 were scrapped amid dissent from victims’ groups.

However, advocacy groups said the final policy cut back on victims’ rights.

Fatima Graves of the National Women’s Law Center told the New York Times that «if this rule goes into effect, survivors will be denied their civil rights and will get the message loud and clear that there is no point in reporting assault».

The group will challenge the rules in court, Ms Graves said.

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USA: Amazon-owned grocery chain workers stage ‘sickout’ for better safety & benefits as retail giants hit by sweeping strikes

North America/United States/05-04-2020 / Author and Source:

Whole Foods employees have called in sick from work en masse to demand better pay, benefits and a safer working environment amid the coronavirus outbreak. They join the Amazon and Instacart workers already on strike.

Whole Worker, a group representing employees of the Amazon-owned Whole Foods grocery chain, called for a mass “sick-out” on Tuesday demanding hazard pay for those working during the epidemic, personal protection equipment and in-store safety measures, free testing and treatment for employees, and guaranteed paid leave for all workers who are self-quarantining. They also want an immediate shutdown of any location where workers test positive for the virus and an expansion of healthcare benefits to part-time and seasonal employees.

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Demand for delivery services like those offered by Whole Foods has skyrocketed with three out of four Americans under some form of lockdown due to the coronavirus epidemic. While the grocery chain and its parent Amazon currently offer two weeks’ paid leave to anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus, that doesn’t help those who want to avoid getting sick – or the customers and fellow employees who will be infected during the incubation period before a sick worker takes note of their symptoms and gets tested. The company announced a $2 per hour hazard-pay bump earlier this month, which would remain in effect through the end of April, but has at the same time cited increased customer demand in its threats to cut benefits for employees unable to work 70 percent of peak hours.


A little reminder regarding the . These dollars were earned off the hard-working backs of these workers:

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Amazon employees are striking too, demanding safe working conditions and transparency. As many as 200 workers at a Staten Island fulfillment center walked off the job at noon on Monday, asking that the building be shuttered and sanitized – and that workers be fully compensated during that period. The lead organizer of that strike, management assistant Chris Smalls, complained management has not been forthcoming with workers about how many have tested positive for coronavirus – they will only acknowledge one case, while the real number is “at least 10,” he said on Monday.

According to a statement posted to Twitter later that day, Smalls was fired later that afternoon over the strike.


Make the Road NY 🦋@MaketheRoadNY

OUTRAGEOUS. Amazon just fired our member Chris Smalls, who helped organize today’s walkout to demand the company .

His statement: «Amazon would rather fire workers than face up to its total failure to do what it should to keep us…safe.»

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Make the Road NY 🦋@MaketheRoadNY

«We are walking out on @Amazon because they are lying to us, not caring about our health & safety.

There’s people sick in the building, they’re not caring about this pandemic, it’s affecting us the hardest here in NY.

They don’t care at all»

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The New York warehouse workers were joined by Amazon employees in Chicago, who also walked out on Monday demanding basic safety measures. “We don’t even have time to wash our hands!” one striking employee exclaimed. Queens warehouse employees staged a similar protest earlier this month when Amazon failed to shut down and disinfect a warehouse following an employee’s coronavirus diagnosis. At the same time, the company announced it plans to hire 100,000 new employees across the US to keep up with epidemic-fueled shopping. 

Eric Blanc@_ericblanc

Amazon workers walked out in Chicago yesterday.

Listen to them explain why.

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The upheaval at Amazon coincides with a strike by Instacart employees, who walked off the job on Monday demanding safety protections and an extra $5 per order in hazard pay. Gig Workers Collective, which organized that strike, said “at minimum thousands of workers” participated in the first day of work stoppage and called for customers to do their part by not placing orders on the platform.

The grocery-delivery service reportedly tried to head off the impending strike over the weekend by offering to provide workers with hand sanitizer and removing the “no tip” option for deliveries, as well as extending the period in which workers who test positive for coronavirus will be allowed to take paid leave. But like Amazon, it only offers two weeks of paid leave to employees who have tested positive for the virus. Workers want paid leave for those who can produce a doctors’ note attesting to a preexisting condition placing them at risk.

Gig workers like those at Instacart, which has 200,000 shoppers on its payroll, are independent contractors and thus lack basic employment protections guaranteed even to their comrades at Whole Foods. Shoppers describe a competitive, even dystopian environment where workers scramble to poach high-dollar orders and photograph other shoppers breaking protocol – bringing their kids with them on the job, for example – in order to get them fired. The company insists business is booming amid the epidemic, and announced plans last week to hire 300,000 more workers. “Over the last 72 hours, more groceries were sold on our platform than ever before,” a spokesperson told the LA Times on Monday.

The striking workers form the core of the “essential” workforce – grocery stores and delivery services are some of the few businesses allowed to stay open with most of the US under various forms of lockdown. If they walk off the job, the system grinds to a halt. Amazon may have fired one strike leader, but it can’t fire them all.

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US nurses herald PROTEST over lack of safety gear putting them at risk of Covid-19

North America/United States/02-04-2020/Author and Source:

National Nurses United has accused HCA, a healthcare company that runs a chain of hospitals across the US, of putting members at risk when treating coronavirus patients. Protests this week will demand better work conditions.

“Nurses at various HCA hospitals are reporting that they have had to work without proper protective equipment,” Jean Ross, president of National Nurses United, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Nurses from HCA hospitals across seven states will protest through April 3 by picketing outside, demanding better work conditions.

Among the safety complaints cited by Ross are reports of having to reuse protective masks, not being informed when nurses are in contact with a confirmed coronavirus patient, and some nurses being told not to wear masks at all because it “scares” patients.

The union is demanding HCA hospitals provide “optimal personal protective equipment for nurses and other staff,” which includes respirators and “head-to-toe coverings.”

Keenan Willard@KeenanKFOX_CBS

: Nurses at Las Palmas Del Sol will be protesting the hospital’s lack of COVID-19 preparedness.

According to the LPDS Union, the protest will be tonight at 6:30 in front of Del Sol.

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NNU represents 10,000 registered nurses at 19 HCA hospitals in states such as California, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada and Texas.

This will not be the first time medical professionals have protested during the coronavirus pandemic. Nurses at Jacobi Medical Center, located in New York City – a city struggling with hospital capacity and a shortage of proper equipment – staged a protest on Saturday over the conditions they were working under, which includes reusing medical masks due to a lack of supplies.

“We’re all at risk if we lack the supplies we desperately need,” one nurse at the protest told the New York Post“It’s a pandemic. If we get sick, our community gets sick. We are all people and our patients deserve better.”

Hospitals in states such as Illinois, Georgia and California have seen nurses protest for similar reasons. The NNU’s new protest will be the first effort coordinated across multiple states.

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‘I Work 3 Jobs And Donate Blood Plasma to Pay the Bills.’ This Is What It’s Like to Be a Teacher in America

United States / September 16, 2018 / Author: Katie Reilly / Source: Time

Hope Brown can make $60 donating plasma from her blood cells twice in one week, and a little more if she sells some of her clothes at a consignment store. It’s usually just enough to cover an electric bill or a car payment. This financial juggling is now a part of her everyday life—something she never expected almost two decades ago when she earned a master’s degree in secondary education and became a high school history teacher. Brown often works from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. at her school in Versailles, Ky., then goes to a second job manning the metal detectors and wrangling rowdy guests at Lexington’s Rupp Arena to supplement her $55,000 annual salary. With her husband, she also runs a historical tour company for extra money.

“I truly love teaching,” says the 52-year-old. “But we are not paid for the work that we do.”

That has become the rallying cry of many of America’s public-school teachers, who have staged walkouts and marches on six state capitols this year. From Arizona to Oklahoma, in states blue, red and purple, teachers have risen up to demand increases in salaries, benefits and funding for public education. Their outrage has struck a chord, reviving a national debate over the role and value of teachers and the future of public education.

Hope Brown works at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY on Aug. 31.
Hope Brown works at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY on Aug. 31.
Maddie McGarvey for TIME/Economic Hardship Reporting Project

For many teachers, this year’s uprising is decades in the making. The country’s roughly 3.2 million full-time public-school teachers (kindergarten through high school) are experiencing some of the worst wage stagnation of any profession, earning less on average, in inflation-­adjusted dollars, than they did in 1990, according to Department of Education (DOE) data.

Meanwhile, the pay gap between teachers and other comparably educated professionals is now the largest on record. In 1994, public-school teachers in the U.S. earned 1.8% less per week than comparable workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a left-leaning think tank. By last year, they made 18.7% less. The situation is particularly grim in states such as Oklahoma, where teachers’ inflation-adjusted salaries actually decreased by about $8,000 in the last decade, to an average of $45,245 in 2016, according to DOE data. In Arizona, teachers’ average inflation-adjusted annual wages are down $5,000.

The decline in education funding is not limited to salaries. Twenty-nine states were still spending less per student in 2015, adjusted for inflation, than they did before the Great Recession, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, leaving many public schools dilapidated, overcrowded and reliant on outdated textbooks and threadbare supplies.

To many teachers, these trends are a result of a decades-long and bipartisan war on public education, born of frustration with teachers’ unions, a desire to standardize curricula and a professed commitment to fiscal austerity. This has led to a widespread expansion of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated, and actions such as a move in the Wisconsin legislature in 2011 to strip teachers’ pensions and roll back collective bargaining rights. This year, Colorado lawmakers voted to raise teachers’ retirement age and cut benefits.

Stacks of books are organized in Binh Thai's classroom at the University Neighborhood Middle School in New York City.
Stacks of books are organized in Binh Thai’s classroom at the University Neighborhood Middle School in New York City.
George Etheredge for TIME

As states tightened the reins on teacher benefits, many also enacted new benchmarks for student achievement, with corresponding standardized tests, curricula changes and evaluations of teacher performance. The loss of control over their classrooms combined with the direct hit to their pocketbooks was too much for many teachers to bear.

‘I love teaching. But we are not paid for the work that we do.’
– Hope Brown, Kentucky

The wave began in West Virginia, where in February and March some 20,000 teachers walked out across the state. Educators there—who made an average of $45,701 in 2016, according to the DOE­—refused to enter their classrooms until the state met their demands to fully fund insurance benefits and increase salaries. Instead, they marched on the capitol, passed out bag lunches for low-income students who normally rely on free school meals and watched as public support flooded their way. After nine school days, lawmakers caved and approved a 5% wage increase. Weeks later, the specter of a similar strike led Oklahoma lawmakers to pass the state’s first major tax increase in nearly 30 years to fund raises for teachers who still walked out for more funding. Teachers in Kentucky and Arizona—both GOP-leaning states—followed their lead.

But teachers faced opposition at times from state and federal leaders. In April, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos criticized striking teachers, suggesting they were failing to serve their students and urging them to “keep adult disagreements” out of the classroom.

Humanities teacher Binh Thai in his classroom at University Neighborhood Middle School in New York City on Aug. 16.
Humanities teacher Binh Thai in his classroom at University Neighborhood Middle School in New York City on Aug. 16.
George Etheredge for TIME

And when school was out for the summer, the teachers’ momentum was blunted. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that public­-sector unions can’t mandate fees from nonmembers—a decision that experts estimate could cost influential teachers’ unions money and clout. And in August, the Arizona supreme court blocked a ballot initiative that would have added $690 million annually to state education funding.

Teachers are out to regain the upper hand. Some have already gone on strike in Washington State, and others are threatening to do so in Los Angeles and Virginia. And they promise to turn out in force for November’s midterm elections, where hundreds of teachers are running for office on platforms that promise more support for public schools. They have also sought to remind the public that they are on the front lines of America’s frayed social safety net, dealing with children affected by the opioid crisis, living in poverty and fearful of the next school shooting.

Recent polling suggests teachers have the public on their side. Nearly 60% of people in a Ipsos/USA Today survey released Sept. 12 think teachers are underpaid, while a majority of both Republicans and Democrats believe they have the right to strike.

“We have to organize even harder and even broader,” says Los Angeles teacher Rosa Jimenez. “People are fired up.”

Social studies teacher Rosa Jimenez atthe UCLA Community School in Los Angeles on Aug. 21.
Social studies teacher Rosa Jimenez atthe UCLA Community School in Los Angeles on Aug. 21.
Alex Welsh for TIME

When Elaine Hutchison’s mother started teaching in Oklahoma in 1970, she made about $7,000 a year. In 2018 dollars, that’s roughly $45,000—nearly the same salary Hutchison, Oklahoma’s 2013 Teacher of the Year, now makes after a quarter-century on the job. Hutchison, 48, is a fourth-generation educator whose daughter also plans to become a teacher. She says she never got into teaching for the money, but, “I do want to be paid what I’m worth.”

Since the first U.S. public-school system was established in Massachusetts in 1647, many localities have struggled to pay teachers and searched for people willing to do the job for less. In the mid-1800s, California superintendent of public instruction John Swett lamented that the work of teachers was not “as well-paid as the brain labor of the lawyer, the physician, the clergyman, the editor.”

“They ought not to be expected to break mental bread to the children of others and feed their own with stones,” Swett wrote in 1865, foreshadowing arguments still made by teachers today.

‘We have to organize even harder and even broader.’
– Rosa Jimenez, California

Teaching has long been dominated by women, and experts say the roots of its relatively low pay lie in sexism. “The ‘hidden subsidy of public education’ is the fact that teachers for many years were necessarily working at suppressed wage levels because they really had no options other than teaching,” says Susan Moore Johnson, a professor of education at Harvard and an expert in teacher policy.

In 1960, teaching was more lucrative than other comparable careers for women, according to the EPI, but that was because of limited opportunity, not high pay. As women were admitted to other professions in wider numbers, choosing teaching carried a cost. For example registered nurses—another career historically dominated by women—make far more than teachers today, earning an average annual wage of $73,550 in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nursing shortages in some parts of the U.S. have led to signing bonuses, free housing, tuition reimbursement and other perks, while teacher shortages have contributed to some states increasing class sizes, shortening school weeks and enacting emergency certification for people who aren’t trained as educators.

Scenes from the Carroll Leadership in Technology Magnet Middle School in Raleigh, NC.
Scenes from the Carroll Leadership in Technology Magnet Middle School in Raleigh, NC.
Jared Soares for TIME/Economic Hardship Reporting Project

Nationwide, the estimated average public-school teacher’s salary is now $58,950, according to the National Center for Education Statistics—a respectable income in many locales, but actual wages vary widely by state, and often do not track with costs of living. When compared to professions with similar education levels, teacher pay tends to pale. In 2016, for instance, the average teacher’s starting salary was $38,617—20% lower than that of other professions requiring a college degree.

The public response to the teachers’ protests shows signs of a shift in the perception of the profession. Even in conservative states, many voters backed tax increases to support public education, and called on lawmakers to stop cutting school budgets. State funding for public schools fell off a cliff 10 years ago, when recession-­wracked states slashed education budgets and cut taxes. The uprising in West Virginia seemed to mark a turning point in public support for refilling the coffers.

Read more about what it’s like to survive on a teacher’s salary

But like most stories, the fight over teacher pay has many shades of gray. Generous retirement and health-benefits packages negotiated by teachers’ unions in flusher times are a drain on many states. Those who believe most teachers are fairly paid point to those benefits, along with their summer break, to make their case.

Teachers, however, say those apparent perks often disappear upon inspection. Many regularly work over the summer, planning curricula, taking continuing education and professional development courses, and running summer programs at their schools, making it a year-round job. Indeed, teachers—about 40% of whom are not covered by Social Security because of states’ reliance on pension plans—must stay in the same state to collect their pensions. Studies have shown that the majority of new teachers don’t stay in the same district long enough to qualify for pensions. Even for those who do stand to gain, it can be hard to find reassurance in distant retirement benefits when salaries haven’t kept pace with the cost of living.

NaShonda Cooke at the Carroll Leadership in Technology Magnet Middle School, where she teaches in Raleigh, North Carolina.
NaShonda Cooke at the Carroll Leadership in Technology Magnet Middle School, where she teaches in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Jared Soares for TIME/Economic Hardship Reporting Project

“Utility companies do not care that you had a great day with one of your students. They don’t care that you’re coaching the soccer team. They want you to pay for the services that they provide you,” says NaShonda Cooke, a teacher and single mother of two in Raleigh, N.C. “I can’t tell you how many letters I got this summer that said final notice.” Cooke, who makes about $69,000, often skips doctor’s appointments to save the co-pay and worries about paying for her eldest daughter’s college education. “It’s not about wanting a pay raise or extra income,” she says. “It’s just about wanting a livable wage.”

Stagnant wages are one reason teachers believe school districts across the country are facing hiring crises. This year in Oklahoma, a record number of teachers were given emergency teaching certifications, despite no traditional training. In Arizona, school districts began recruiting overseas to fill their shortfall. Last year, U.S. public schools hired 2,800 foreign teachers on special visas, up from 1,500 in 2012, according to federal data.

‘I can’t tell you how many letters I got … that said “final notice.”’
-NaShonda Cooke, North Carolina

The pipeline, meanwhile, is drying up. Between 2008 and 2016, the number of new educators completing preparatory programs fell by 23%, according to the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. And once ­teachers make it to the classroom, attrition is high: at least 17% leave the profession within the first five years, a 2015 study found.

Hutchison says her daughter has plans to continue the family teaching tradition, but it’s becoming a harder path for a middle-­class kid. Hutchison’s sibling—an attorney, engineer and physical therapist—all earned graduate degrees, but now she makes half of what they do. “My younger brother who’s an engineer—his bonus is more than my salary,” she says.

NaShonda Cooke, center, at home in the morning with her daughters in Raleigh, NC.
NaShonda Cooke, center, at home in the morning with her daughters in Raleigh, NC.
Jared Soares for TIME/Economic Hardship Reporting Project

As the new school year gets under way, many are picking up where the spring protests left off. In L.A., teachers voted in August to authorize a strike if negotiations continue to stall over issues including teacher pay and class sizes. In Washington, teachers in several districts are already on strike, calling for pay raises to come out of newly allocated education funding. In Virginia, teachers are floating the possibility of a statewide walkout.

Brown, the Kentucky teacher, says the fight needs to happen now or never. If budget cuts and school privatization efforts continue, she warns, teaching will cease to be a viable career for educated, engaged and ambitious people. She talks about what she does not as a job but as a calling. “I’m not necessarily a religious person, but I do believe I was put here to be a teacher,” she says. “I just want to be able to financially do that.”

But to Brown, it’s not only about what she and her fellow teachers are worth, because they’re not in the classroom alone. If the public is on their side, they say, it’s ultimately because of the kids.

—With reporting by Haley Sweetland Edwards/New York



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