As Oklahoma teachers strike drags on, frustration mounts

Fallin says "it's important to get back in the classroom and to teach our children". Identifying as a Republican, Sanders threatened to vote out incumbent Republican state legislators in this year's midterm elections if they were not responsive to teachers' demands.

The Oklahoma movement has received national attention as teachers call for better pay and more money to educate their classes.

Teachers rally at the state capitol in Oklahoma City on April 4, 2018.

Teachers, supporters and students packed the capitol building as the statewide walkout enters the second day. "It's a high-poverty school, and everything is a constant battle", she said.

Fallin signed a bill last week for a $6,100 pay increase for teachers, described as the "largest teacher pay raise in the history of the state".

In Oklahoma, most Republicans last week broke with the party orthodoxy and endorsed hundreds of millions of dollars in tax increases to fund public schools and give teachers a raise of 15 to 18 percent. They also want a $5,000 pay increase for support professionals like bus drivers and custodians over the next three years.

Even within the teachers' own ranks, there are divisions. She also signed measures increasing the pay for public employees and school support staff.

She said, "I know it could be worse", and that it is worse for many teachers in the state, "but things feel at capacity". "We've got folks that are blocking legislators' doors and vandalism in the parking lots is what I was told this morning, and we've had several legislators that are receiving death threats".

Late yesterday, the Oklahoma State House passed a bill that would provide funding for classroom resources.

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We need more leaders who are willing to reach a sensible compromise.

For Schooler, it would take lawmakers filling the void created by the anticipated repeal of a newly passed hotel/motel tax that would have funded a portion of teacher raises and the creation of a significant, permanent new revenue source for public schools. The governor further raised the ire of teachers after an interview this week in which she likened striking teachers to a "teenage kid that wants a better vehicle". The statistics are alarming: education funding per student in the state has been cut by twenty-eight per cent in the past ten years, the largest cuts of any state in the country, and twenty per cent of the state's schools are in session only four days a week, because of the lack of funds.

Rep. Earl Sears, a Republican from Bartlesville and a retired school administrator, said he voted for the tax hike and supports teachers' efforts, but acknowledged they run the risk of losing public support the longer that schools remain closed.

The ability of public education advocates to show up showed no signs of waning as there were many newcomers to the protest Thursday among those who had been there every day this week. Teachers in West Virginia took similar steps last month.

Two other measures to expand tribal gambling and tax certain internet sales that are expected to be considered in the Senate Friday would generate roughly $40 million annually.

Despite many people's impression that teacher strikes are exclusively about pay raises, teachers throughout the country say it's about more than that; they're anxious about the state of education as a whole. Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, a state teachers' union, explained her fellow teachers' motive in leaving classrooms across the state to protest on Tuesday.

An Oklahoma second grade teacher announced she would run for her state representative's seat, after he posted an angry Facebook live video criticizing teachers for their behavior on Tuesday during the walkout.

Chris Housman, a Norman middle school geography teacher, stood outside Cleveland's door wearing a giant placard reading "Does Bobby Cleveland Represent Us?"


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