On Monday morning, tens of thousands of Oklahoma teachers stormed the state Capitol to urge lawmakers to approve better pay and more funding for their classrooms. At the same time, more than 800 miles away, a similar demonstration was under way: thousands of Kentucky teachers marched to Frankfort to rally against new changes to the state pension program and echo the call from their Oklahoma peers and educators across the country.
Inspired by the nine-day strike in West Virginia that ended in 5 percent raise for teachers, educators in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona have walked out of schools in recent weeks and headed to their state Capitols to urge legislators to demand adequate school funding after years of cuts. Monday’s protest prompted 200 Oklahoma schools to close.
Last week, Republican Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill that raised teachers’ salaries by up to $6,100, depending on experience, by raising gas and oil taxes and adding tobacco for the first time since 1990—a departure from previous years of tax cuts from the deeply conservative state legislature. Oklahoma teachers are demanding a $10,000 raise to each teacher’s salary, a $5,000 increase for support staffers, and $200 million increase in school funding, over three years.