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Oklahoma education funding bill signed; teacher protest continue

06 April 2018
Oklahoma education funding bill signed; teacher protest continue

The planned raise paled against teachers' demands for a fully funded school budget, as part of a $3.3 billion package to restore massive cutbacks across state agencies, as well as the basic dignity of a living wage for all state workers.

But Millar says she never really felt strapped for cash during her days in the classroom.

"We don't want them looking back, especially seniors, and saying, 'yeah, I didn't play my senior year because our teachers walked out'". Teachers have rallied several times during Kentucky's legislative session to protest the pension bill, but Monday was by far their biggest event.

A day earlier on CBS, she had criticized teachers' demands as "kind of like having a teenage kid that wants a better vehicle".

The continuing strikes in Oklahoma are the latest in a series of actions by educators and school administrators throughout the country.

That's how a dozen students ― one of them a sixth-grader ― came to give speeches to a crowd of thousands outside the state capitol on Wednesday. One of the factors that unchained this event can be traced to the ones that took place in West Virginia a month ago, where teachers received a pay raise after a strike that kept schools closed for nearly two weeks.

The theme at the Capitol was Family Day. Both states have among the lowest paid teachers in the nation.

"If legislators don't perform their civic duty correctly, then we want them to know that we are people who are in a well-educated profession who are advocates for public schools", Haynes said.

That includes games in the Tulsa area, where Owasso and Shawnee faced off in an critical district baseball game on Tuesday evening, the second-straight day the schools faced off in a home-and-home series.

Education funding has dropped by 28% over the past decade, the state teachers' union said. But a top teachers union leader said Thursday that he did not believe the measures under consideration would be enough to end the strike. "I've been here every day because we need more funding for our classrooms".

Following the House passage of the internet sales tax bill Wednesday, state Rep. Scott Inman (D) urged his colleagues to do more.

"They're depriving their students of education while they're there", says Connie Millar.

Sarah Jane Scarberry, teacher at Heavener High School, Oklahoma, took these photos of crumbling textbooks and desks at her school. Understaffing in paraprofessional support staff across the public school system, she adds, leaves teachers overwhelmed with classes often exceeding 30 students.

Other protests were held around the state near schools and along busy streets, with demonstrators holding up signs with such slogans as "35 is a speed limit, not a class size", and "Students, students what do you see?"

Crossing the Red River that separates Oklahoma and Texas meant a salary increase of about 40 percent for Price, who has a master's degree.

In 2016, Oklahoma ranked 49th in teacher pay.

Some Oklahoma educators and their supporters have begun a 110-mile march to urge state lawmakers to increase funding for classrooms. Still, schools in the state's largest districts remain shuttered, including Oklahoma City, Tulsa and many suburban communities.

The teachers are pushing for a $10,000 pay increase over three years.

Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, speaks during a rally and walkout by Oklahoma teachers at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Monday, April 2, 2018.

The bill signings come amid a teacher walkout in the state, with teachers, supporters - including public employees - calling for better funding of education and core state services. They also want a $5,000 increase for support staff. Last week, teachers in Arizona rallied to demand more funding too. The long-term political consequences of these teacher uprisings are not clear yet, but the white T-shirts worn by students outside the Oklahoma capitol on Wednesday might offer a clue.