Oklahoma teachers pressure state lawmakers for higher funding

Frederick Owens
April 6, 2018

Scarberry is one of several teachers and parents in Oklahoma who have shared photos and stories via social media of crumbling, outdated textbooks as part of their plea for more education funding.

Some students said they only recently became aware of how little their teachers were paid, or how far behind in funding Oklahoma had fallen compared to other states. That's far less than educators in neighboring states, making it hard - for many districts, impossible - to find and keep qualified teachers.

We just found out that a bunch of our teachers have second jobs.

But Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest said that still is not enough.

Chris Housman, a Norman middle school geography teacher, stood outside Cleveland's door wearing a giant placard reading "Does Bobby Cleveland Represent Us?" The rebellion of educators, parents, students and public sectors workers seeking a genuine struggle against austerity, poverty and war requires that workers unite their struggles both nationally and internationally.

Former Oklahoma teacher Chelsea Price, 34, is pictured in her elementary school 2nd grade classroom in Grapevine, Texas, U.S., April 4, 2018.

It's still not clear if the passage of those measures, or another to require certain online vendors to pay sales tax, will be enough to placate teachers and get them to return to the classroom. 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.

Price and other teachers from Oklahoma have followed the money.

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"We the students of Oklahoma are with you for as long as this strike takes", student Cameron Olbert told a rally outside the state capitol, epicenter of a demonstration that has attracted tens of thousands of people.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is looking into potential threats that were made against at least three state lawmakers related to the ongoing teacher rally at the Capitol. The next day, hundreds of protesters filled the Capitol to capacity, chanting in the rotunda while, outside the building, teachers booed lawmakers when the House adjourned. "Our class sizes increase every year and we don't have the funds to hire new teachers or aides". The average compensation package of an Oklahoma teacher was $45,276 a year, according to the National Education Association, a figure that includes a high-priced health plan and other benefits.

The measure - which still must be passed by the Senate and signed by the governor - brings teachers about half way toward their initial demands. But many educators said classrooms also need more money. In some of them, books are from 20 years ago. They urged lawmakers to pass legislation that would repeal the capital gains tax exemption, a measure that would yield up to $100 million.

"If your teachers are willing to walk 110 miles for their students, what is the Oklahoma legislature willing to do for the students of Oklahoma?" "It's never, 'Well teachers, now is the time to stock up because we have a budget increase.' It's always the cuts", she said. "I don't even know who they are".

"I think it's wonderful", said Katy Hoke, a teacher in nearby Yukon who, with her three kids, sat on the grass munching sandwiches.

Since 2010, Texas has seen about 3,500 teachers from Oklahoma apply for teaching certificates, the most of any state, according to the Texas Education Agency.

He later deleted the video and issued a statement saying he doesn't approve of some behavior at the Capitol but now understands that it wasn't "necessarily Oklahoma teachers that have been doing it".

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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