On Friday, over 1,000 teachers in Kentucky called in sick in response to a provision changing their pension benefits that was tacked on last second to a sewage bill. The gumption to protest has spread; on Monday in Oklahoma, teachers are poised to walk out of the classroom over school spending cuts.
USA Today reports that thousands of educators statewide are planning to walk out. Governor Mary Fallin signed a $6,100 pay bump over the holiday weekend, but the teacher’s union is not satisfied. Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest said in a Facebook live video that the package does not address the budgetary shortfalls that are causing overcrowding in classrooms, shortened school weeks, and a serious supply shortage:
The Oklahoma Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, is calling for $10,000 raises over three years, $5,000 raises for bus drivers, custodians and other staff, and restoration of tens of millions of dollars in education funding trimmed in recent years.
The union is following in the footsteps of the moderately successful strike in West Virginia for a living wage raise, buoyed by a wave of dissatisfaction around the country from educators, who are largely women. The Guardian reports that teachers in Arizona, New Jersey, Pennsylvania are also all considering actions in protest of their working conditions, galvanized by the public show of support for West Virginia’s teachers on social media.
Oklahoma teacher salaries currently rank at 49th in the country at $45,276, which is about $13,000 below the national average. In a statement, the Oklahoma Education Association wrote that a “decade of neglect” from the state legislators has put schools and teachers in a desperate situation, adding, “We are saying enough. No more empty promises. The governor and legislature need to act now to fix this.”