Taking inspiration from the grassroots victory of the West Virginia education workers, the teachers and school workers in Oklahoma are taking a stand for themselves and their students. They, as well as educators in Kentucky and Arizona are proclaiming “enough is enough.”
As in West Virginia, tax cuts and generous state subsidies have gone to businesses in lieu of funding for public schools and public services. Nearly 20% of Oklahoma public schools operate on a four-day week to cut costs. Textbook shortages are common. And the textbooks are often more than a decade old. Facilities are debilitated. Teachers haven’t seen a raise in ten years (their salaries rank 49th in the country).
Proposals on the part of the Governor and legislators to offer the Oklahoma teachers and school workers a raise fell far short. In addition, the teachers and support staff are demanding a $200 million increase to education funding to enhance schooling state-wide. The teachers say they will stay out until the legislature and governor appropriate the monies for schools.
Teachers want to educate. They can’t when schools are only open four days each week because local school districts can’t afford to pay the utility bills for a five-day operation. Teachers are buying classroom supplies out of their own pockets.
The education workers’ actions are a part of a growing movement for fair salaries, access to effective training, quality learning materials and safe facilities for students, staff and teachers alike – a true sign of solidarity for all.
The APWU Oklahoma State organization is coordinating support activities for striking teachers. "This is our kids' future and the future of our state," said APWU Oklahoma State President Ashley Cargill. "It is important to stand behind these educators and restore our education fund."
"The teachers were some of our number one supporters during the Stop Staples camapign," Cargill continued. "When we support each other, we can all go further."