In late February, teachers in West Virginia went on strike. They rallied at the state Capitol for nine days and persuaded legislators to give them a 5 percent raise. Their surprise success emboldened teachers in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona to organize their own strikes, prompting the biggest wave of teacher activism in decades. Union activists hailed the protests, and teachers did gain some ground in pay and classroom funding.
But the unions’ celebration didn’t last long. Despite predictions that teacher activism would have a big effect on the 2018 midterms, that education wave never materialized. They did help flip statehouses in Wisconsin and Kansas to Democrats. But education advocates in states that saw the most teacher-related activism didn’t enjoy significant ballot victories. In the Oklahoma gubernatorial election, Republican Kevin Stitt defeated Democrat Drew Edmondson, who promised to raise taxes to increase teacher pay. Teachers unions also failed to oust Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican who became a foil for activist teachers during that state’s strikes. And Colorado voters rejected a referendum that would have raised an estimated $1.6 billion for education. —L.J.