Kentucky, Oklahoma Teachers Rally Against War on Public Education

Kentucky, Oklahoma Teachers Rally Against War on Public Education”

Educators listen to a speech outside the Oklahoma Capitol while rallying for increased education funding Monday, April 2, 2018 in Oklahoma City.

Teachers, he said, have grown deeply distrustful of state lawmakers who repeatedly pledged to give them a raise and to restore cuts to education, but failed to do so. It has cost hundreds of millions of dollars every year since, Oklahoma Policy institute estimates.

"Absolutely, we'll remember that pension vote", she said Monday.

Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, said the walkout would continue at least until Tuesday, as members continue pressing their demands for lawmakers to approve more funding, the Associated Press reported.

But Priest said teachers reject the argument that there isn't enough money to provide additional funds for classrooms.

But many teachers on Monday said they planned to protest as long as it takes to get the increases they're after.

The legislature claims that the changes, which cut benefits for new teachers, were necessary in order to address funding problems with the pension plan. The move was done in response to chronic underfunding of the state's teacher retirement system and in defiance of a powerful teachers union that vowed political retribution.

They didn't have to go far to gauge teacher reaction.

Oklahoma ranks among the worst states in the country in terms of teacher salary.

The $50 million increase in funding from the state "will buy less than one textbook per student in Oklahoma", she said.

The school employees plan to march to the Capitol, a couple of blocks away, on a cold, overcast day.

Amid a chorus of chants from teachers, Kentucky lawmakers considered a new state budget that includes higher spending for public education. The spending and taxing proposals cleared the Senate on Monday and now go to the House, which is expected to vote on the measures later Monday.

As the national movement has gained momentum, it has also grown more ambitious.

The Oklahoma legislature passed a teacher pay raise averaging 16 percent or $6,100 last week, the first pay increase for most Sooner State teachers in a decade. She was appointed as chair of the Oklahoma State Textbook Committee in 2016 by Gov. Mary Fallin. They have asked for a $10,000 raise, as well as additional funding for local schools and raises for support staff such as bus drivers and custodians.

The Oklahoma City district said in a news release Monday schools will be closed but that meals will continue to be served to students.

Andrew Beaver, 32, a middle school math teacher in Louisville, Ky., said he was open to changes in teacher retirement programs, such as potentially asking teachers to work to an older age before drawing down benefits; now, some Kentucky teachers are eligible for retirement around age 50. The protesters wore red and carried signs that said #RedforEd. "It really is a wildfire".

"The goal of why we are here today is to insure that there are no cuts to public education", said Kevin Beers, a Fairview High School Teacher.

The teachers and their supporters were inspired by their colleagues who demonstrated just less than one month earlier in West Virginia. On Friday, teachers shut down a number of schools by calling in sick in what was described as a "sickout" on social media. And for years they have been adding more and more and more on to teachers and we have been putting up with all of it. "If I were a legislator right now, I'd be honestly sweating bullets".

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