Teachers Strike, Demand Raises and Funding in Oklahoma and Kentucky
Inspired by the strikes last month in West Virginia, teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky took to their state capitols to protest low pay and demand greater funding and benefits. Two hundred of Oklahoma’s school districts were closed on Monday due to the strikes, The New York Times reported, and the marches and closures that continued Tuesday affected 70 school districts, according to Reuters.
Last month’s strikes in West Virginia culminated in a five percent pay raise for teachers, but Oklahoma educators are agitating for more: $10,000 raises—roughly a 22 percent increase—as well as $5,000 raises for support staff and $200 million for education funding, according to CNN. The legislature signed a $6,100 raise into law, but teachers say it’s not enough.
“I think one of the things when people see this, they say, 'The teachers got a raise.' They did. It's the first one in long time, but they’re not just here for that,” Jason Simeroth, an Oklahoma school superintendent, told MSNBC. "They’re here for resources, here for desks…We haven’t had an operational increase since I’ve been doing this, and I’ve been doing this 27, 28 years.”
Oklahoma’s average teacher salary of just over $45,000 in 2016-2017 places it 48th out of 50 states, ahead of only South Dakota and Mississippi, and about on par with West Virginia, according to statistics from the National Education Association (NEA).
The rally in Kentucky on Monday also called for “more funding in the state budget to pay for textbooks, technology and school programs,” and protested a pension reform bill, CNN reported. According to the NEA, Kentucky teachers’ salaries average just over $52,000.
With the strikes in West Virginia and Kentucky, and the continuing strike in Oklahoma, more teachers across the country are getting on board with demanding higher pay and increased resources. Last week, thousands of Arizona teachers congregated in Phoenix to push for 20 percent pay raises, according to The New York Times.
“We’re going to continue to escalate our actions,” Noah Karvelis, an Arizona music teacher, told the Times. “Whether that ultimately ends in a strike? That’s certainly a possibility. We just want to win.”