Teachers threaten strike in 3 states as rallies begin in capital cities

UPDATE — 4/9, 3:51 p.m. EDT: Now in its seventh day, Education Department Sec. Betsy DeVos commented on the Oklahoma teachers’ strike while touring a middle school in Dallas Thursday.

“I think about the kids,” she said. “I think we need to stay focused on what’s right for kids. And I hope that adults would keep adult disagreements and disputes in a separate place, and serve the students that are there to be served.”

Sooner State educators haven’t had a raise since 2008 and are seeking $150 million more in school funding above the $50 million increase granted by the governor two weeks ago.

 

Public school teachers in Arizona, Kentucky and Oklahoma are starting to wake up to how neglectful states have been of education funding in recent years and are finally doing something about it following a similar push in West Virginia last month.

On Monday, Oklahoma and Kentucky educators rallied at their respective capitols as classes across both states were canceled to protest paltry salaries and underhanded tactics to reform teachers’ pension plans.

In the Sooner State, education funding has declined by more than a quarter since the late 2000s, resulting in the 3rd lowest average salary among all teachers in the U.S. during 2017 at $45,245.

“I’m 54 years old and my paycheck is $1,980 [a month]. I can’t afford f****** health insurance,” an English teach from Tulsa told NPR.

While Gov. Mary Fallin signed a education funding bill into law last week giving educators a $6,100 pay raise, the Oklahoma Education Association seeks a $10,000 yearly increase after state legislators allocated only $50 million for the plan.

In a somewhat similar move in Kentucky, teachers from at least 21 counties descended on Frankfort to voice their displeasure about changes to state educators’ retirement benefits passed without prior knowledge on Thursday.

The reforms, tucked into sewage legislation, raise the tenure requirement for teachers to receive their full retirement package and makes new school personnel hires pay into the system in lieu of a traditional pension.

“We have no choice but to be here,” said a teacher from Kenton County, Ky., just south of Cincinnati. “We have to represent what we do. When they pass this with the sewage bill, it tells us exactly what we need to know about what they think of us.”

Monday’s rallies follow a classroom walk-out staged by hundreds of Arizona educators last week to demand a 20 percent salary raise at the state capitol in Phoenix.

 

[NPR] [CNN] [USA Today] [Lexington Herald-Leader] [NBC News] [Dallas Morning News] [Photo courtesy Oklahoma Education Association via People’s World]

 

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