Oklahoma Teachers Set For Statewide Walkout Amid Continued Pay Dispute

Adjust Comment Print

An award-winning Arizona teacher has announced she would not be returning to the state's education system next year, citing low funding for education as a major factor for her decision.

Although the teachers still seem to have strong public support, Mike Kennedy, whose daughter is a public school teacher in Liberal, Kansas, is part of a segment of the population that wasn't sure teachers needed more money even before the state approved a raise.

The strike comes after similar action about a month ago in West Virginia and as teachers in states including Arizona and Kentucky consider walkouts. Teachers in West Virginia won a 5 percent raise after a nine-day strike. Coverage has included revealing interviews with teachers who are forced to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet.

In addition, thousands of Oklahoma teachers flocked to the state capital of Oklahoma City on Monday demanding pay raises.

"Last night I drove Lyft and Uber for six, seven hours", high school algebra teacher Jonathan Moy told CNN. Legislature, will you help me? He was first elected in 2016, part of the election that saw Republicans win control of the state House for the first time in almost 100 years. Other schools were already closed due to a scheduled holiday.

"Norman Public Schools, United Way, Community After School Program, The Cleveland County Family YMCA, CCFI, and various other community partners are pooling their resources to provide childcare in the event of a district-wide school closure beginning April 2, 2018", according to the United Way.

The disastrous situation facing public schools and educators is the result of a national and worldwide ruling-class policy of slashing social spending to pay for surging military budgets and bolster the profits of the banks and corporations.

Oklahoma is one of 12 states that slashed education spending following the 2008 recession and failed to restore those funds as the economy improved, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning Washington DC research and policy institute.

"This isn't about one organization or another", Liebl said.

For many teachers, last week's surprise pension reform bill that passed both chambers and went to Gov. Matt Bevin's desk on Thursday prompted them to travel to Frankfort and voice their displeasure.

Retired teacher Claudia Swisher tweeted that Oklahoma teachers 'are the poorest-paid.

OEA president Alicia Priest called it a "good starting point", but not enough. "He doesn't seem to care that these kids on the Central Coast will have nowhere to go if the school closes". Governor Mary Fallin signed the $450 million measure, but teachers say it fell short of their demands. So you have many Republicans who will have to defend a vote to increase taxes back home. That's not going to happen this year.

Waynelle Mason, 63, was among the state workers who showed up to support teachers - and rally for raises for state employees. "Don't let unions, or superintendents, or even legislators take away your confidence", the page declared.

Thousands of protesting teachers and their supporters, many of them bused in from across the state, filled the Capitol grounds and spilled over into the surrounding streets. Teachers in districts around the state agreed to stay out of school until better legislation passed. Teachers have rallied several times during Kentucky's legislative session to protest the pension bill, but Monday was by far their biggest event.

Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler encouraged teachers and students to rally against the bill Monday. Ducey instead reiterated his proposal for an insulting 1 percent pay increase, less than half of the annual 2.2 percent rate of inflation.

"The continual long hours spent on unnecessary work such as data collection for arbitrary Government targets is not only demoralising but is unsustainable mentally and physically", he said. The newspaper noted that "each $100 million that was lost would translate to a 3 percent pay hike for teachers".

She also signed a bill to increase taxes on cigarettes, motor fuel, lodging and oil and gas production that would raise an estimated $475 million.