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Thousands of Oklahoma, Kentucky teachers walking out of class Monday

Oklahoma teachers to walk off job over pay, shut schools statewide

Legislation signed by Gov. Mary Fallin last week, which increases teacher pay by an average of about $6,100, or 15% to 18% wasn't enough to avert a walkout.

"We need more money for support staff, we need more money for the state education budget, we need more money for the cost of living adjustment for retired teachers", Greg Oppel, a social studies teacher at Edmond Memorial High School was quoted by NewsOK as saying.

As an editorial board, we support the teachers' decision to take a stand. Our conversation, conducted via email and lightly edited for flow is below. "I hope that that's the message that gets across to all citizens of the commonwealth". Educators are organizing and publicly pressuring state lawmakers over issues like education funding, teacher salaries and pension reform. Add in the fact that Oklahoma teachers have some of the lowest average salaries in the nation - and many districts in neighboring states, like Texas, can offer a substantial raise - and teachers have been voicing their concerns for years.

The advocacy comes at a time of growing scrutiny surrounding teacher pay, long a flash-point in North Carolina as well. Principals have said that filling some positions has become impossible, especially in rural communities.

"I think if you looked at these disproportionately female professions, like teaching, people have basically been exploited for years because they care about kids", said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the unions representing the educators in West Virginia, which last month won a 5 percent pay increase. Coverage has included revealing interviews with teachers who are forced to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet.

As Common Dreams has reported, Oklahoma is just one state where teachers have railed against poor funding and chronically low pay in recent weeks. So, why are the protests ongoing?

Congress Approves $1.3 Trillion Spending Bill, Averting a Shutdown
He added that the border wall, which he said was "desperately needed for our National Defense" is not fully funded. He called on Congress to get rid of the filibuster rule so the Senate could pass a budget with a simple majority.

'We've all heard stories from students, parents, and teachers affected by eleven years of cuts to our classrooms, ' Pries said. And there's also concerns about the state funding affecting textbooks, school programs and technology.

Despite the frustration and even anger, the mood inside Oklahoma's Capitol was upbeat and something of an expo, with legislators offering hot coffee and bagels to protesting teachers and their supporters. The newspaper noted that "each $100 million that was lost would translate to a 3 percent pay hike for teachers".

When I first spoke with Cagle after arriving in Oklahoma, he was driving back from a meeting with teachers in a remote area of the Oklahoma panhandle. Those teachers were joined by many more colleagues from across the state who were on spring break. But the plan must still survive votes in the Republican-controlled Senate and House of Representatives later in the day. While one round of hard votes isn't enough to give us long-term faith in lawmakers, it does show that members - more than 75 percent of both chambers - are sometimes able to make hard decisions in the state's best interest when it counts and then hold that coalition together despite intense pressure from both sides of the political spectrum.

These eruptions of labor protest took the media by surprise, shining a spotlight on the already-bad-and-getting-worse conditions that educators have had to put up with, especially in the past 10 years since the Great Recession. Primary races are set for May with the general election set for fall. In contrast, student enrollment has increased by more than 8 percent. Every day you're going home and you're just feeling like, I failed. "This is about funding our schools for our students".

Cillizza: Finish this sentence: "This will resolve itself _".

"It's gut wrenching and I feel like a sellout", said Whitewater, who was disappointed there wasn't a larger funding increase for public schools.

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