Monday | January 25, 2021

Fighting for the Future of Public Education

with editor

Becky Kolins Givan, Associate Professor of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at Rutgers University.

and discussant

Joseph A. McCartin, Professor of History and Director, Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and Working Poor, Georgetown University


In February 2018, 35,000 public school educators and staff walked off the job in West Virginia. More than 100,000 teachers in other states—both right-to-work states, like West Virginia, and those with a unionized workforce—followed them over the next year.  From Arizona, Kentucky, and Oklahoma to Colorado and California, teachers announced to state legislators that not only their abysmal wages but the deplorable conditions of their work and the increasingly straitened circumstances of public education were unacceptable.  These recent teacher walkouts affirm public education as a crucial public benefit and understand the rampant disinvestment in public education not simply as a local issue affecting teacher paychecks but also as a danger to communities and to democracy. 

Strike for the Common Good gathers together original essays, written by teachers involved in strikes nationwide, by students and parents who have supported them, and by outside analysts (academic and otherwise).  Together, the essays consider the place of these strikes in the broader landscape of recent labor organizing and battles over public education, and attend to the largely female workforce and, often, largely non-white student population of America’s schools.

Purchase the book at University of Michigan Press (use UMSTRIKE for a 30% discount or at Amazon.



  • Strike for the Common Good is an engaging and incisive examination of the wave of educator strikes in 2018–19 that will be remembered as a defining moment of activism—a moment when educators, parents, and communities came together to reject the war on public education and serve up a new narrative about the promise of public schools and teachers as pillars of democracy, communities, and racial and economic justice. The volume is packed with the insights of academics examining where our movement came from, and the passion of activists shaping where it is going.”
    —Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers
  • “After more than a decade of neglect, racial and social inequities, underfunding and disparagement, educators across the country said, ‘Enough!’ Strike for the Common Good is a timely and thoughtful volume that tells their stories and their frustrations. It explains how they came together as a powerful force to demand the equitable resources their students and their schools needed.  Strike for the Common Good captures the energy of an unexpectedly powerful and organic movement that became known as ‘Red for Ed,’ where educators, joined by parents and local communities, used collective action to make a memorable stand for public education.”
    —Becky Pringle, President of the National Education Association
"The future of public education hangs in the balance. As this book shows, only teachers can save it for future generations."
—Diane Ravitch, New York University