Oklahoma Teachers Protest Inadequate School Funding

Oklahoma teachers are the latest to join ranks with others to protest inadequate school funding, spearheaded by The Oklahoma Education Association teachers union. Monday morning, teachers flooded the Oklahoma Capitol building. The walkout had been in planning for roughly a month, and it seemed as though the crisis was perhaps averted when lawmakers created a bill for a package teacher pay raise. However, when it was revealed that the law had funding holes, the band-aid solution quickly disintegrated. The issue has been boiling for quite a while, and the recent West Virginia teacher protests spurred Oklahoma teachers to action. Oklahoma is currently one of the many states finding themselves in budget issues after years of cutting taxes, an ordeal that means that teachers have gone many years without pay raises or enough resources for their classrooms. Additionally, Oklahoma has cut the most funding to education formula funding, the typical avenue for funding for local school districts, out of every other state in recent years. The average Oklahoma teacher’s salary ranks at 49th in the country.

It is currently unclear how long school districts will be closed because of the walkouts. Schools continued to be closed on Tuesday, meaning that roughly 230,000 students missed class. The Oklahoma Education Association’s president, Alicia Priest, stated that “[We are walking because] there are 700,000 reasons . . . our students. And they deserve better. … They see broken chairs in class, outdated textbooks that are duct-taped together, and class sizes that have ballooned.”

Oklahoma lawmakers are expected to return to session Tuesday morning to discuss school funding, after being unable to pass any bills on Monday.

The size of the strikes, their implications, and the rumblings of more strikes across the country has lawmakers sweating.

The teacher’s union declared that lawmakers were simply stalling in order for selfish reasons, and urged them to return to session Tuesday. These protests follow in the footsteps of West Virginia teachers. Katarina Ruff, another Oklahoma teacher, stated “[The teachers on strike in West Virginia] gave us the guts to stand up for ourselves,” The train of education walkouts doesn’t seem to be stopping. Arizona and Kentucky teachers are threatening walkouts as well to protest funding and pension cuts, respectively. With midterm elections coming up in elections, along with the fact that the rage of these teachers doesn’t seem to be letting up, it is clear that education funding will be a powerful political force in autumn.

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