Published: Wed, April 04, 2018
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Oklahoma teachers hold second day of walk-out protests

Oklahoma teachers hold second day of walk-out protests

"I can't afford f****** health insurance". We can vote them out, but voting one out just brings a bad one in instead. He is spitting nails.

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.

In Kentucky, teachers rallied at the state Capitol in Frankfort Monday after the Legislature passed cuts to pensions for new teachers. Teachers in West Virginia went on a almost two-week strike in late February and early March, eventually winning a 5 percent pay raise. That vote followed earlier walkouts.

Oklahoma teachers are some of the lowest paid in the country.

The Oklahoma teachers are not the only ones unhappy.

All of Kentucky's schools are closed today.

This wave of teacher-led actions around the country was kicked off when teachers in West Virginia emerged victorious from a almost two-week strike earlier this month.

The rally in Kentucky is led by the Kentucky Education Association, the state's union affiliate. "I look forward to continuing to talk with legislative leaders and teachers as we forge a positive pathway forward for education".

In Oklahoma, teachers like Cagle have stepped up, discontent with union leadership. The American Federation of Teachers has about 2,700 members out of 42,000 teachers.

Over the past several years, budget cuts have negatively impacted numerous state agencies, including the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

"We're fighting for our students and more funding for our classrooms", said Crystal Hendricks, a Tahlequah third-grade teacher.

The protests come a month after teachers in West Virginia staged a series of strikes for almost two weeks before winning a pay raise. "You're not going to stop that with a $6,000 raise". They vowed to continue their protests indefinitely.

In Oklahoma, as in West Virginia, teachers got a boost from their bosses as school boards and superintendents expressed frustration with the mass defections of teachers to neighboring states such as Texas, which offer much better pay. "I feel like they're choosing oil and gas over education", one public school teacher told Tulsa World. "How do you negotiate with Facebook?"

"We're going to pack the Capitol", union President Alicia Priest said. It's a nuanced position. "We've got to get more money in the classrooms, and that's final".

Despite having less money in the budget, the Oklahoma State Department of Education says that student enrollment continues to rise. The OEA didn't accept the deal. Teachers in Kentucky also protested Monday over changes to their pension plans. They have asked for a $10,000 raise, as well as additional funding for local schools and raises for support staff such as bus drivers and custodians.

Teachers said they'd rather be teaching, but legislators have left them with little choice. She's attending the rally in the capitol with many of her colleagues. "That is a 16 percent average pay increase for teachers", Gov. Mary Fallin said in a statement. Many wore buttons that read: I don't want to strike, but I will. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said that won't happen. "Every single kid that I've ever had deserves more than this".

Karvelis says that, once a critical mass of teachers is on board with a walkout, "the power is in our hands". Arizona teachers are planning a statewide walkout as well.

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