Schools shut in Oklahoma amid teacher protest

Adjust Comment Print

Thousands of Kentucky and Oklahoma teachers rally for education funding and pay raises. Teachers in Norman, Okla., began picketing Tuesday. She prayed for their futures.

Veronica McQueary, an elementary school teacher from Whitley County, said she feels like lawmakers don't care about public education.

Main said some grassroots groups supporting teachers are planning to form a ring around the state capitol building early Monday to prevent lawmakers from entering and Bevin from signing the bill.

"I have books from 1980 and it's kind of hard when you're teaching a sixth grader and you're reading something and the facts are from the 1980s", Brooks said. Whatever the decision, the Ponca City Public Schools Administration and Board of Education definitely support our teachers.

Until Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed the bill into law Thursday, teachers in Oklahoma were the lowest paid in the US and hadn't seen a raise in a decade.

Felder: Educator frustration in Oklahoma has been growing for years as public school funding has not kept pace with student growth.

The protests come a month after teachers in West Virginia won a pay raise after shutting down schools for almost two weeks before winning a pay raise.

Meanwhile, Kentucky teachers are advocating for a wage increase and better classroom resources similar to teachers in Oklahoma, but will also be protesting a controversial bill proposing a reduction of pension benefits.

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 cuts in Oklahoma also had dire consequences for schools. "Teachers, students and the community have decided enough is enough".

Educators say years of austerity in many states have led to the stagnation of salaries and the hollowing-out of school systems.

On a state level, the inflation-adjusted general funding per student in Oklahoma dropped by 28.2 percent between 2008 and 2018, the biggest cut of any state, according to the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Monday to possibly vote on a two-year operating budget. Teachers in Arizona held another rally in late March.

UN Calls For Investigation Into Gaza Deaths
In recent years, first Egypt and then the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank joined Israel in squeezing Gaza financially. The EU is the biggest donor to the Palestinians and has spoken out against US President Donald Trump's Jerusalem decision.

In Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation last week granting teachers pay raises of about $6,100, or 15 to 18 percent.

What other sources of revenue could help school funding?

The state's largest teachers union has demanded a $10,000 pay raise for educators over three years, $5,000 for support personnel and a $75 million increase in funding this year. Repeal of the hotel tax reduces the total package by about $45 million. Teachers say their classrooms are in need of new technology and new furniture.

"It just broke my heart", Cole said. And while this bill would move money from the billionaire's pockets to their own, when it passed. they weren't happy either. "But I do think there can be some set plans: This is where we're going, this is how we're getting there".

By Monday, at least 25 Kentucky school districts closed due to the walkout at the state Capitol.

Larry Cagle, an English teacher at Thomas Edison Preparatory High School in Tulsa, was one of thousands of teachers gathered at the capitol in Oklahoma City.

Teachers have rallied several times during this year's legislative session to protest a pension bill.

"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.

For months, Oklahoma teachers have been fighting to get the bare minimum.

Oklahoma legislators last week approved, and Governor Mary Fallin signed into law, the state's first major tax hike in a quarter century - a $450 million revenue package meant to help fund teacher raises and avert a strike.

"It's just really an ugly time".

Anderson laughed and said, "Yeah, I'll see if it will fit into my purse!"