Oklahoma, Kentucky teachers rally as movement grows

While some predicted that Oklahoma's teachers would be back in their classrooms Tuesday after rallying for education funding at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City the previous day, many schools remained closed as educators continued their walkout.

Some of the demands by the largest teachers' union in the state include an increase in school funding by US$200 million over the course of three years and raise teachers' wages by US$10,000.

Traci Hanna will be among thousands of teachers walking out across Oklahoma on Monday. Now the movement spread from West Virginia to Kentucky and Oklahoma where many schools are already closed and in anticipation of more walkouts.

"I don't feel that we can trust what [legislators] say", she said, pointing to funds made available for public education in the early 1990s that have since been slashed.

"They had to make us go to the extreme, and now they're just trying to throw a Band-Aid on it and it's just not going to work", Morejon said.

The educators also called for state education funding to return to pre-recession levels and more competitive pay for teachers' aides and paraprofessionals, according to The Arizona Republic.

A student's chair inside the classroom of Oklahoma teacher Sarah Jane Scarberry, an English teacher at Heavener High School in Heavener, Oklahoma. "This is our house", chanted people jamming three floors.

"I appreciate teachers coming to the Capitol today to talk with their elected officials", Fallin said in the statement. "We've gone without textbooks; I'm a science teacher and I go without proper equipment for labs".

The wave of strikes in Republican-dominated states, mainly organized by ordinary teachers on Facebook, has caught lawmakers and sometimes the teachers' own labor unions flat-footed.

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"Our kids get music for 20 minutes, one time a week", Poolaw added. They were demanding higher teacher pay, now among the lowest in the country. "But, you know, that's OK because what we will teach 'em is that it doesn't matter how long it takes or what we have to do, we're gonna stand together".

Overall, tax cuts like these inevitably affect education budgets; state governments fund about half of the cost of public schools, with local taxes and federal programs kicking in the rest.

In addition to education, lawmakers need to work on funding prisons, mental health, health care, human services, transportation and public safety, said state Rep. Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee, who attended the rally.

Oklahoma ranks 47th among states and the District of Columbia in public school revenue per student, almost $3,000 below the national average, while its average teacher salary of $45,276 ranked 49th before the latest raises, according to the most recent statistics from the National Education Association. The bill, if signed, would bring Oklahoma's teacher salaries from among the lowest in the nation, to the middle of the pack.

This Monday, Hanna, like many teachers she will be joining, will be walking out for increased funding for each student. Churches and organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club and Girl Scouts are offering daycare or camp-style accommodations.

The walkout comes after teachers received a $6,100 average pay increase last week amid threats of a walkout, something that the Oklahoma Education Association called a "down payment".

Educators in Oklahoma and Kentucky could be seen all over social media on Monday as they skipped school or used their spring break vacationss to march in protest of changes to their pensions and advocate for more school funding.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has not yet signed the bill, but last week tweeted his support, saying public workers owe "a deep debt of gratitude" to lawmakers who voted to pass it.

"Out of the blue, on the intercom, they just say, 'lockdown procedures, '" Rhodes said.

  • Adam Floyd