Teachers in East St. Louis, Ill., remained on strike last week, through more than two weeks of school closures. A two-week walkout in Scranton, Pa., ended the previous week. Those strikes follow others that have been resolved in Seattle; in Pasco, Wash.; McHenry County, Ill.; and Prospect Heights, Ill., earlier this fall.
Even though it seems like an unusually high number of teachers’ strikes occurred this school year, an Education Week Teacher analysis of strikes over the past six years shows that their pace hasn’t increased or decreased significantly. And considering the thousands of school districts across the country, strikes are rare occurrences, attention-grabbing though they may be.
The data show that 56 teachers’ strikes took place between 2010 and 2015, and those walkouts occurred in eight states: Pennsylvania, 20; Illinois, 16; California and Washington, five each; Oregon, four; and Ohio, Vermont, and Missouri, two each.
While 2015 has had the most strikes in recent years, 2012 and 2014 were close behind.
Most states don’t allow teachers to strike, as they consider them to be essential public personnel.
Washington state, which has had dozens of strikes in the past several decades, outlawed public-sector strikes, but there’s just enough vagueness in the law that teachers have nevertheless walked out. Pennsylvania and Illinois both allow strikes; in the former’s case, state law dictates how long strikes are permitted to last to ensure that students have 180 days of instruction per school year. Illinois passed a law in 2011 to limit the permissible terms of a teachers’ strike.
A version of this article appeared in the October 28, 2015 edition of Education Week as Number of Teachers’ Strikes in 2015 Keeps Pace With Other Years’