Duncan teachers head to Oklahoma State Capitol

by Garry Watts April 3, 2018, 2:58
Duncan teachers head to Oklahoma State Capitol

Continuing the red state education revolt that began in West Virginia, Oklahoma teachers launched a statewide walkout and converged on the Capitol building in Oklahoma City on Monday morning to demand more funding for schools.

Lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Monday to possibly vote on a two-year operating budget. She prayed for their futures.

"A student once saw me waiting tables at a wedding", she says, recalling the humiliation.

The protests come a month after teachers in West Virginia won a pay raise after shutting down schools for almost two weeks before winning a pay raise. Oklahoma educators are some of the lowest-paid in the country.

The shouts and chants of thousands of Kentucky teachers reverberated throughout the Capitol on Monday as they protested a bill that drastically changes pensions offered to future educators that swiftly cleared the General Assembly last week. "Teachers, students and the community have decided enough is enough". Many school districts have moved to four-day school weeks because they can not afford to keep the lights on for five days.

Frank Solomon, superintendent of Noble Public Schools, said he has had to cut the speech and drama programs in his high schools and push back buying buses and air conditioners.

But after years of budget cuts and challenging conditions in Oklahoma classrooms, teachers are ready to make their voices heard.

State lawmakers have approved teacher pay raises in recent years that raised North Carolina's national ranking to 35th, with average pay falling just short of $50,000, according to a report last year from the nonpartisan National Education Association.

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The movement has pushed people like Self - who described herself as quiet and has never participated in a protest - to the front lines of the battle for school funding.

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

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.

She watched the drama unfold on television, broadcast live from the statehouse by a local news station. And while this bill would move money from the billionaire's pockets to their own, when it passed. they weren't happy either. "We were dejected and disheartened ... now I'm just angry".

One teacher told the union: "I don't know how I can change how I work, I don't know how long I can maintain it, and the impact that it's having on my family is horrific".

He's one of the 2,000 emergency teachers hired without complete credentials to fill classrooms abandoned by educators who found more generous paydays in other states or other careers. "I think Ducey has made it apparent that he is not the governor who is going to turn education around".

Christine Wertz, a fourth grade teacher at Bixby North Intermediate, says she's grateful for the teacher raise passed last week, but teacher retention will be tough if the teaching environment is challenging with large class sizes. He shared anecdotes of teachers working second and third jobs - including a music teacher who drove to Oklahoma City to work at an Olive Garden after a full day at school.

Killackey said students would speak on the need for more education funding in solidarity with the teachers after classes ended for the day. He said lawmakers have plenty of time left to fix it before the legislature must adjourn for the year. "It's going to get a little Western out there".

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