Published: Tue, April 03, 2018
Worldwide | By Sean Reid

Oklahoma Teachers Rally For More Funding, Say Raise Is Not Enough

Oklahoma Teachers Rally For More Funding, Say Raise Is Not Enough

Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said during the rally that drew thousands to the state Capitol that teachers will continue pressing their demands for lawmakers to approve more funding for pay raises and classrooms.

Supporters say SB 151 is a prudent move to help retire Kentucky's pension debt while opponents say the structural changes will make it more hard to recruit and retain educators in the state.

Demonstrators were inspired by a nine-day strike that last month won West Virginia's teachers their first pay raise in four years.

Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler encouraged teachers and students to rally against the bill Monday.

On social media, teachers and supporters also shared images showing the dire need for more education funding so schools can afford basic supplies like textbooks.

When will the walkout end? In Oklahoma, dozens of school districts have announced closures for Monday, and many Kentucky schools are closed as well.

Teachers statewide flocked to Oklahoma City, saying concessions made by lawmakers last week aren't almost good enough to support the future of education.

"We, as educators, are truly appreciative of the initial efforts of the state legislature; but, view this as only a first step toward what truly needs to be accomplished", says Arrott.

But that fell short of teachers' demand for a $10,000 pay increase over three years for teachers and a $5,000 raise for support personnel.

"But it's like, at what point do I leave Oklahoma and just drive the 30 minutes into Kansas", she said. This is still an anti-tax state in many ways, but even the most conservative parts of Oklahoma have been hit hard by school funding cuts, especially in rural communities.

Jennifer Thornton, a third-grade teacher from Tulsa, said the lack of funding has led to outrageous class sizes.

"I will walk and knock on every door", Luking said, "to see that every one of these guys are defeated".

Gov. Mary Fallin, R-Okla., already signed legislation that would up teacher pay by about $6,100 through an increase in taxes on certain goods, such as cigarettes and fuel.

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He said he signed it in order to provide needed money for the military. "My highest duty is to keep America safe". Trump painted a picture in which he tried in vain "to explain to [Democrats] the military is for everybody".

For him, that includes paying the full actuarial payment for the teacher retirement system for 2019-20, funding employee health insurance at the equivalent level payments are now, and for the state to fully fund Support Education Excellence in Kentucky, referred to as SEEK.

Several educators at the Oklahoma rally said their greatest concern was more funding for their schools.

"If Stillwater wants to attract manufacturing jobs, you've got to have people here to do it and that all comes back to our education where we have teachers with overloaded classrooms, teachers wearing more hats than ever, let alone the new "Hey, you get to be a police officer" hat they want to put on them".

"Significant revenue-raising measures were approved to make this pay raise and additional school funding possible", the Republican said in a statement.

The protest is similar to one taking place in Kentucky, where angry teachers have gathered at the Capitol in Frankfort to protest changes to their pension plan.

The crowd is marching to "We're Not Going to Take it" by Twisted Sister.

New hires will have to enter a hybrid cash balance plan, in which members contribute a specified amount into their account.

The bill, passed mostly on party lines, has gone to Gov. Matt Bevin - who supports reforming the pension system. As we've said before, we don't think Oklahoma will agree with their backward economic thinking. "Therefore, Edmond Schools will be closed Monday and possibly beyond", a note from Towne to parents read.

Monday's scheduled strikes follow a growing trend of teacher walkouts across the country.

Earlier this week, there were more than 35,600 teacher requests on the website. Districts have not been able to maintain buildings, so students shiver through the winter in classrooms with faulty heating, share long-outdated textbooks and become accustomed to a rotating cast of teachers.

"We are all products of public schools, and we are proud of public education", she said.

"And instead of finding logical sources for funding, they just want to cut and take away".

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