Oklahoma, Kentucky teachers strike for higher pay, education funding

Oklahoma teachers to walk off job over pay, shut schools statewide
Fed up with school spending cuts, Oklahoma teachers prepare to walk out

03 April, 2018

School districts across the state closed, either for spring break or to attend Monday's demonstration, as teachers marched on the Capitol, armed with signs and chanting slogans like, "Vote them out", "Fund our schools", "We will remember", and "West Virginia", an allusion to that state's recent teacher strike for pay raises.

A teacher holds up a sign during a rally at the Kentucky state Capitol in protest for increased funding and to protest last minute changes to their state funded pension system.

The Republican-controlled legislature approved a $450 million revenue package last week to help fund teachers' pay raises in the first major tax increase in a quarter century.

Teachers plan to rally in Oklahoma City on Monday morning, which has resulted in the closure of several schools across the state, including Oklahoma Public Schools, its largest district.

The measure increased taxes on cigarettes, fuel and oil, and gas production to provide the raises.

The strike by Oklahoma teachers is only the latest in a growing rebellion by teachers throughout the country.

"What I'm seeing in Louisville is teachers are a lot more politically engaged than they were in 2015 or 2016", Beaver said.

There are almost 2,000 emergency certified teachers in use across the state, when just five years ago the number was below 35.

First-year teacher Diane Young said she's already used to spending her own money on classroom supplies.

Echols said education funding advocates will need to plan to carry their momentum into November.

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia spoke to thousands during the rally in Oklahoma, saying lawmakers need to do more.

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Edmond Memorial High School English teacher Regan Killacky hosts his classes on the Oklahoma Capitol lawn as a symbolic means of showing students the importance of funding kids' education.

It's a small portion of the Sidney School District's valuation that comes from valuation ag land, but the district is developing more offerings in its ag education electives. Sonia Norton is a Duncan teacher, who has taught for the past 39 years and she said they're walking for the students.

"So if we have the right funding then we can be good we can have dedicated certified teachers in the classroom to teach the students.If we have the funding we have the textbooks, we have the materials". Outside the Capitol, a sign said: "You Make Us Sick".

"I think one of the things when people see this they say, 'The teachers got a raise.' They did".

Priest said the organization is asking for teachers to receive a pay raise of $10,000 per year, as well as additional funding to the tune of $200 million over the next three years.

"Women have a long history of labor activity, even before they had the right to vote", said Jean Harris, a professor of political science and women's studies at the University of Scranton.

Teachers were incensed by passage of a bill last week that mandates a hybrid pension plan with individual accounts for new hires.

The Oklahoma Public Media Exchange's Jacob McCleland talked with Rep. Josh Cockroft (R-Wanette) about what he's hearing from teachers in his district and what the next step is for legislators. "'I hope you'll thank me and go back to school'".

The communities were the flagship of a National Government initiative, "Investing for Educational Success", which was originally budgeted at $359m over four years - although the budget was underspent because the communities were slow to form.

In a surprise move last week, the state lawmakers passed a pension reform bill by tucking the measure into a Senate bill that had previously been about sewage system. "I needed someone to play the legislature", Deming said.

"Every party needs to work together in order to come to positive solutions for our kids and our public employees", KEA President Stephanie Winkler said during her remarks at Monday's rally.

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