Across Utah today there is confusion and frustration, As the two-day Utah Education Association-called school teacher strike took effect, parents, children and general public were inconvenienced-and considerably bewildered.
Go to school? Stay home? One-day recess? No days? The situation began to clarify somewhat late Sunday as most of Utah’s 40 school districts backed the resolution of the Utah School Boards Association to hold school with whatever teachers could be mustered-volunteer or otherwise.
How many of the state’s 11,000 regular teachers showed up for work in defiance of the UEA recommendation had not been determined accurately at presstime.
The recommendation to attempt holding school in spite of the walkout seemed the proper course, despite the confusion. This seemed especially so since there will be little chance to make up two lost days prior to summer vacation. Further, to simply capitulate to the ill-advised UEA walkout would smack of “going along” with disregard for contractual arrangements and public trust, without a fight.
Call the UEA action a “withholding of services,” “recess,” or whatever term, the two-day walkout is still a strike, pure and simple. It’s intended largely as a strike against Gov. Clyde’s refusal to call a special session of the Utah Legislature to appropriate more money for education, but it amounts to a strike against the public, too. The children, whose welfare the UEA is pledged to promote, could be the biggest losers – with the possible exception of the teachers themselves.
If public sympathy and support swung to the teachers last week when Gov. Clyde refused to call a special session of the Legislature as his school study committee recommended, it almost certainly swung back as a result of the hasty, high-handed and ill-timed ”recess” called by the UEA’s house of delegates in these last weeks of school.
With state revenues running about $4 million in the red, and since the school study committee failed to recommend ways of finding the $6 million in “emergency funds” it recommends for 1964-65 the governor apparently has solid reasons for his decision. Many people certainly would agree that here in Utah we must not launch into deficit spending. We have enough of that on the national level.
UEA’s campaign to upgrade school salaries and facilities has great merit. The majority of people, we feel, recognize this and applaud the legitimate efforts in this direction. There needs to be a continual upgrading.
We must remember, however, that education isn’t the only facet of government caught in the financial squeeze. More money is also needed for roads, buildings, welfare institutions, police protection, and other vital public needs. Each of these needs consideration.
We do not feel there is a school emergency great enough to warrant the rash action of the UEA in calling the two-day recess. Such a strike violates a public trust, just as would in walkout of policemen, firemen, doctors, or hospital employees.
This state, the Herald believes, does not deserve, the nationwide smear it is getting for its alleged failures to meet educational needs.
Although not satisfying the teacher demands, this state has not ignored the needs of education by any means, from pioneer days to the present. In teacher salaries we are not near the top among states, but, we’re a long ways from the bottom. State and local expenditures for public education in Utah still get a bigger slice of the tax dollar than in any other state.
Just last year the Legislature increased school finances by $11,600,000, providing for teacher salary increases averaging upward from $600. Funds appropriated for all levels of public education amounted to 80 per cent of total increases granted by the Legislature.
These gains -and others in the past- have come through orderly process. There is no reason to believe that this state, education-minded from the start, will not continue to support the schools up to the limit the economy will afford.
Let’s support the UEA program of upgrading education but let’s do it by orderly procedures in keeping with the dignity of our democratic process. For teachers to resort to force or coercion is unworthy of the profession. Further, it sets a deplorable example of disregard for law for the children who look to educators for instruction, moral guidance, and example.
Some of the UEA actions of the past few years have been extreme, to say the least – last year’s long strike threat; pledges to defeat legislative candidates who do not support UEA proposals: threats of disciplinary action against members who do not comply with UEA resolutions; and attempts to secure power-of-attorney in contract negotiations from prospective teachers about to graduate from Utah colleges.
Shorter School Year
Saturday’s meeting of the House of Delegates had a similar ring with the two-day recess order, plus discussion of proposals to shorten the 1964-65 school year by 10 days, refrain from contracting for 1964-65 until either a special legislative session is called or the school year is shortened, curtailment or elimination of summer programs, and requesting the NEA to impose national sanctions against Utah.
We believe the UEA, by such actions, is hurting itself and the cause of education in Utah. Further, it is doing innocent children a severe injustice.
The teachers have been called in n mass meeting Tuesday in Salt Lake City to consider proposals and decide on a course of action. We feel it is time that the reservoir of splendid, level-headed, far sighted teachers in this state assert themselves instead of going along with ill-advised actions of an element of leadership which has dominated the picture in recent years.
Let calm heads prevail. Education has held a revered place in this state. That reputation has suffered sharply of late because of the harangue and the threats over finances. Let’s get started up the road again. We can move forward when reason prevails and we adhere to the orderly processes of law without threats, coercion, or incriminations.