Kansas teacher reacts to Oklahoma teacher walkout

Posted April 04, 2018

Teachers in Norman, Okla., began picketing Tuesday. But teacher says it's not enough. She prayed for their futures.

Most school districts around the state remained closed for the day, while many went ahead and announced they would remain closed for at least the rest of the week.

These working-class teachers, here in a deep-red state like Oklahoma, are among a growing wave of rebellion in Republican-controlled states where public education is often found on the chopping block, while corporations are given lavish tax incentives in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Cillizza: Walk me through how we got here.

In Oklahoma, where teacher pay approaches the worst in the nation - an average of about $45,000 annually, slightly above MS and South Dakota - teachers aren't just concerned about their pay.

Teachers held a massive rally at the state Capitol in 2014, dozens of teachers ran for state office in 2016, and there was an unsuccessful effort two years ago to pass a statewide sales tax to fund a pay raise.

"Stop the war on public education!"

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This wave of teacher-led actions around the country was kicked off when teachers in West Virginia emerged victorious from a almost two-week strike earlier this month. They emboldened educators across the country. Teachers in Arizona are now considering a strike over their demands for a 20 percent salary increase.

"I'm fed up", Rusty Bradley, a high school technology teacher whose classroom computers are more than a decade old, told the Washington Post.

"I am so thankful to be here, so thankful", said LeAnna Snyder a second-grade teacher. After the speeches were made, teachers continued to march around the Capitol while others made their way inside the building to rally their legislators.

Kentucky's GOP-controlled legislature said the pension reform bill was crafted to help the state cover a $41 billion shortfall in pension costs over the next 30 years.

"That (education) funding is good but it should never have been threatened, anyway", said Stephanie Winkler, President of the Kentucky Education.

On Thursday, Governor Fallin signed HB 1010, which has raised the teachers' pay by anywhere between 15 percent to 18 percent, with an average of US$6,100.

The state's teachers are among the lowest-paid in the nation and they accuse the Republican-controlled state legislature of failing to adequately fund public schools. About a dozen teachers gathered at the home of Jami Cole, a third-grade teacher at Horace Mann Elementary, and curled up on a plush sectional sofa and on the carpet, huddling over posters and expertly tracing letters with glitter glue. Repeal of the hotel tax reduces the total package by about $45 million.

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She watched the drama unfold on television, broadcast live from the statehouse by a local news station. "We were dejected and disheartened ... now I'm just angry".

Teachers booed when members of the Oklahoma House adjourned without taking up Senate-approved revenue bills. "It's never, 'Well teachers, now is the time to stock up because we have a budget increase.' It's always the cuts", she said.

First, in right-to-work states, teachers lack codified procedures for grieving issues like low pay.

They were following in the footsteps of teachers in West Virginia, who walked out of class last month and were able to win a pay raise.

"It's just really an ugly time".

"I will say, our district does try very hard to supply our needs", Scarberry said, "But not all needs are met and quite frequently we know better than to even ask". "It's going to get a little Western out there". Around the letters, in smaller print, she wrote the names of all of her students: Maci, Landon, Jesse and Ava - about two dozen children in all.

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