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Oklahoma teachers latest to strike over pay demands

by Leigh Jones
Posted 4/03/18, 11:03 am

Oklahoma teachers continued their strike into a second day Tuesday, forcing three of the state’s largest school districts to close. As parents of students in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Edmond scrambled to find somewhere for their children to go during the day, churches and other groups offered free day care, and some schools offered free meals. Teacher frustration boiled over last week after Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill giving them a 15 to 18 percent raise. The striking educators are demanding more. Oklahoma teachers make $45,276 per year, on average, placing them 49th in the nation. The state ranks 47th in public school revenue per student. Oklahoma educators took their inspiration from teachers in West Virginia, who staged a nine-day walkout last month to secure a 5 percent raise. On Monday, hundreds of Kentucky teachers rallied at their state Capitol to protest cuts to education funding and educator pension plans. So many teachers attended the rally that several districts canceled classes for the day. Teachers in Arizona also are considering a strike to force their state legislature to give them a 20 percent pay raise.

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Leigh Jones

Leigh is the news editor for WORLD Radio. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate who spent six years as a newspaper reporter in Texas before joining WORLD. Leigh also co-wrote Infinite Monster: Courage, Hope, and Resurrection in the Face of One of America's Largest Hurricanes. She resides with her husband and daughter in Houston, Texas.

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  • Tuck
    Posted: Tue, 04/03/2018 02:47 pm

    The OK teachers supported an average  5K per year raise several months ago. That measure was defeated in the legislature. They demanded a raise and threatened to walk. The legislature passed and Gov. Fallin signed a tax increase on pretty much everything that moves (including gasoline) and gave them an average 6K per year raise and they walked. 

    How do we get from a couple of months ago accepting a 5K raise to today walking because a 6K raise is not enough. 

    The last numbers I saw on Oklahoma's budget was education consumed 51%. I think we have a spending problem in DOE and clearly the teachers are not getting paid enough. Where's the money going? Maybe a 130K per year superintendent for every little school might be a place to look.

  • OldMike
    Posted: Tue, 04/03/2018 02:57 pm

    Problem is, Oklahoma, like my state of Arkansas, is not wealthy.  Teacher pay in some wealthier states is much higher.  I am not familiar with how pay is determined for teachers in Oklahoma, maybe they have another system, but in Arkansas, pay varies greatly from one local school system to another, because of the differences in the tax base in their districts. 

    So maybe teachers need to take the initiative for increasing their pay individually:  move to where the pay is better. 

  • MamaC
    Posted: Wed, 04/04/2018 10:09 am

    I'm not quite sure how it works, but there is something called "equalization" that limits local districts' ability to offer increased compensation. The way I understand it is that the more local funds are available, the less federal and state money is allowed. I'm sure that's an over-simplification of the policy, but it does have a restrictive effect on local districts.

  • AlanE
    Posted: Tue, 04/03/2018 09:44 pm

    Conservatives tend to bemoan the fact that education is the province of liberal indoctrination. Yet, in compensation, in dignity ascribed to teachers, in the mocking repeated over three months off each summer, and in just about every other arena, we demean the teaching profession. We heap criticism, we increase class loads, we cut planning periods, we add unfunded mandates (both of the reporting variety and of the classroom variety), we fill the school year with testing that students have no investment in. The courts, all too often at the behest of "conservatives," hogtie the process of school discipline to ensure our kids stay entitled. And, it takes a monumental act of perseverance for any teacher to issue any failing gade to any student for pretty much any reason imaginable.

    After all this, we wonder why none of our fine conservative-minded kinds sees much of any reason to enter the teaching profession. Why on earth, short of a burning desire to indoctrinate kids not your own, would you put up with all that?

  • MamaC
    Posted: Wed, 04/04/2018 10:02 am


  • OldMike
    Posted: Wed, 04/04/2018 02:31 pm

    AlanE, I certainly agree with you that teachers do not receive the respect they should. And yes, I think a lot of the abuse heaped on the teaching profession comes as a reaction to what some of us view as an emphasis on liberal indoctrination in the classroom, as opposed to actual education    

    We also see some kids “graduating” while still functionally illiterate, place sole blame on teachers, and ignore the fact that too many families do not support their kids’ teachers. 

    I take issue only with your statement that “conservatives” have caused the decline in school discipline. Discipline, teaching self-control, teaching respect for authority and the mores of society—all are more the province of conservatives than of liberals, imho. 

  • AlanE
    Posted: Wed, 04/04/2018 03:16 pm

    OldMike, to be clear, I don't think conservatives were at the ideologicial forefront of the demise of school discipline, rather that folks who self-identify as conservative have done their fair share to undermine it along the way. I speak from experience as a (now retired) educator. Unfortunately, conservatives, too, have a rich history of making excuses for their own kids' bad behavior and even bringing in the weight of attorneys and legislators when disciplinary measures were brought to bear. I've seen it too many times to be any longer a party to denying it.

  • MamaC
    Posted: Wed, 04/04/2018 09:59 am

    I'm not in favor of the walkout, but to be fair, it isn't that the pay raise wasn't enough of an increase. What the teachers object to is the insufficient funding for the schools for basic supplies, textbooks, etc., not to mention increased class sizes and decreased support from parents, especially in terms of discipline. I have sympathy for the teachers, but I'm not sure this is the best way to earn respect.