Schools shut down on Monday as thousands of teachers and staff in Oklahoma walked out to protest the low wages, benefit cuts and lack of school funding.
Leading up to the planned strike, Oklahoma educators gave lawmakers an opportunity to pass a bill that met their demands, but could only come up with a $447 million compromise to the $3.3 billion requested by the teachers, Vox reported. The bill, which would have given teachers a $6,100 raise, support staff a $1,250 raise and $50 million in education funding, was going to come in part from raising taxes on oil production, diesel fuel and cigarettes, but the deal was rejected by the Oklahoma Education Associate, the group negotiating on the educators behalf.
“This isn’t just about teacher salaries,” David DuVall, executive director of the Oklahoma Education Association, said. “This is about funding our schools for our students.”
While West Virginia’s teachers strike proved to be successful forcing lawmakers to pass a bill that gave teachers and other state employees a 5 percent pay raise, Oklahoma teachers are confident they can do the same.
More than 30,000 teachers and school staff along with state employees rallied outside the capitol in Oklahoma City on Monday forcing more than 500 school districts serving 75 percent of the state’s students to close, Vox reported.
Oklahoma educators are asking for a $10,000 pay raise over three years for teachers, a $7,000 raise for school staff over three years, raises for state employees and $200 million on school funding, a 5 percent increase of cost of living for retired teachers and greater health care funding.
With 20 percent of Oklahoma’s public schools going to a four-day-week schedule, lawmakers have been cutting business taxes and top income rates for several years now causing deep cuts to education. Oklahoma teachers’ salaries rank forty-ninth in the United States, Vox reported, without a raise in 10 years.
In Kentucky, every public school throughout the state was closed on Monday – the majority were on Spring break, while the other 20 school districts cancelled classes – amid the strike that had thousands of teachers protesting in the state capital of Frankfurt after lawmakers passed a bill that would cute pension benefits for teachers.
“Stop the war on public education!”
Furious over what many teachers are calling a “bait and switch” tactic, Kentucky educators aren’t only protesting the pension bill, they are demanding more school funding.
Arizona might be the next state to see a teachers strike. While a group of educators protested outside the capitol last week, teachers said that if they don’t receive the 20 percent pay increase and more public education funding they will follow the lead of West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky.