April 24, 2018

Teachers, Oklahoma lawmakers at odds as walkout rolls on

06 April 2018, 01:46 | Darrell Baldwin

Oklahoma teachers rally outside the state Capitol in Oklahoma City Oklahoma U.S

Oklahoma teachers rally outside the state Capitol in Oklahoma City

They were protesting for cuts in pay and benefits.

While teachers in Oklahoma say they appreciate the pay raise, they are upset that state lawmakers shortchanged their students by slating $50 million for education programs and supplies.

And when Fallin took the state airplane to a business opening in McAlester, about 140 miles southeast of Oklahoma City, several protesters were on hand at the airport to jeer her.

Ravi Patel, a senior at Southmoore High School, says public education in Oklahoma is as bad or worse than education in developing nations. The rebellion of educators, parents, students and public sectors workers seeking a genuine struggle against austerity, poverty and war requires that workers unite their struggles both nationally and internationally.

Schools were shut down in Oklahoma because of the strike. When the rules can't contain them, teachers have no choice but to write their own, including grassroots work stoppages.

Purcell Public Schools was scheduled to remain closed through Wednesday.

"Before classes started today, teachers, many wearing T-shirts reading "#RedForEd", greeted parents and students with signs reading, "Don't Shortchange Education" and "Help me Help Them".

The atmosphere was filled with loud chants like, "We need teachers, we need books, we need the money that the Capitol took!" The long-term political consequences of these teacher uprisings are not clear yet, but the white T-shirts worn by students outside the Oklahoma capitol on Wednesday might offer a clue.

After state Rep. Kevin McDugle (R) vowed to strike down any education funding measure because he didn't like how the teachers were acting, veteran educator Cyndi Ralston announced she was running against him. An analysis of public school teachers by the National Education Association found that Oklahoma teachers make an average salary of $45,245, ranking only slightly above MS and South Dakota. The GOP governor signed a measure last week that granted 15 to 18 percent salary increases for Oklahoma teachers. They're more concerned for money than they are for the education of their child, and that's the important thing.

A new poll released by the Oklahoma Education Association showed that 93% of Oklahomans think Fallin hasn't done enough to fund education.

Some Oklahoma school districts say they will close for a fourth day in anticipation of a continued walkout by teachers demanding more funding for classrooms.

Many teachers claim they are not paid enough, and that has driven them to find a second job.

Some Oklahoma educators and their supporters have begun a 110-mile march to urge state lawmakers to increase funding for classrooms.

Dever said that while the pension bill was passed "in a deceitful and disrespectful way", that she was in Frankfort to also rally for school funding.

"I'm not voting for another stinking measure when they are acting the way they are acting".

According to a report from the National Education Association, Georgia ranks 24th in the country for teacher salaries. Oklahoma secondary school teachers earned a wage of $42,460 as of May 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Even with the proposed pay hike, teachers' salaries are still devastatingly low, despite being years into the economic "recovery".

Demonstrations in both states followed a similar movement in West Virginia last month - which, after almost two weeks of a school shutdown, resulted in a 5 percent pay raise.

James H. Miller, a journalism teacher in Louisville, tweeted in the course of the demonstration, "It's really incredible to see the @KyDems party talking about supporting teachers when they went along with the pension defunding for years".

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