Oklahoma teachers walk off job over pay, shut schools statewide

Oklahoma teachers walk off job over pay, shut schools statewide

Oklahoma teachers walk off job over pay, shut schools statewide

After being forced by pressure from the teachers to call for a statewide strike on April 2-as a means of letting off steam and heading off any broader action-the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) made one last attempt to prevent a walkout, helping to broker a bill in the state legislature that includes inadequate funding increases paid for largely by regressive sales taxes.

And many say they'll keep fighting until lawmakers meet theirdemands.

".I think there's kind of an extremist side that's wanting to influence public education in that way".

The demonstrations were inspired by West Virginia, where teachers walked out for nine days earlier this year and won a 5 percent increase in pay.

And there's no end to the walkout in sight.

In Oklahoma City, a band of teachers played "We're Not Gonna Take It", as buses of educators from across the state arrived at the Capitol.

The Oklahoma Education Association-with 12,000 members out of a teaching workforce of 42,000 in the state-has put forward a legislative proposal that would give teachers a $10,000 raise over three years, with $6,000 of it coming in the first year.

According to National Education Association estimates for 2016, Oklahoma ranked 48th, followed by MS at 49 and South Dakota at 50, in terms of average US classroom teacher salary.

In his first major speech he promised school leaders that the Government would "strip away" pointless tasks to allow teachers to "focus on what actually matters".

Jennifer Thornton, a third-grade teacher from Tulsa, said the lack of funding has led to outrageous class sizes. "I know that teachers are saying the bill they got, HB1010XX, is going to be voted on again next year and it's not fully funded, and that's not true". There's also $33 million for textbooks.

"If we don't stand up today, and say, 'our students are worth the investment, ' then it's going to be too late", she said. "Funding for our students is an issue in every schoolhouse in the state of Oklahoma". "Copies are limited in schools to maybe 30 a week".

Thousands of Oklahoma teachers won't be in the classroom on Monday, instead they will be at the state capitol protesting for higher pay.

"At this point, we are continuing to protest until our voices are heard", said Gerry Brooks, principal at Liberty Elementary in Lexington. "And several of us are going to stay at the Capitol as long as it takes".

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

There will be no changes to annual cost of living adjustments, which will remain at 1.5%. If Gov. Matt Bevin signs it into law, it will phase out defined-benefit pensions for teachers and replace them with hybrid retirement plans that combine features of a traditional pension with features of the 401 (k) accounts used in the private sector.

The rally is happening after hundreds of teachers called in sick Friday to protest last-minute changes to their pension system. "There's more work to be done than that". Many schools there are on spring break. These bills will provide approximately 475 million dollars to support raises for teachers, support staff and a moderate amount of funding for textbooks and school resources.

Patty doesn't buy it, "This may have passed but the teachers are ungrateful or they would show up for work on Monday".

"It's just an outright assault on public education". "I have children in college, so it's a good thing my wife also teaches", he said.

The reversal on tax cuts in Oklahoma was particularly stunning, because lawmakers there included a hike on the normally sacrosanct energy industry, increasing the production tax on oil and natural gas from 2 percent to 5 percent.

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