The Teachers Book-Learned A Lesson From West Virginia: They're ALLLL On Strike!
Oklahoma kids would like their teachers paid, please.
Good news! After 10 years without giving teachers a raise, the Oklahoma state legislature voted this week to raise teacher pay by about $6,100 a year, and Gov. Mary Fallin signed it yesterday. To accomplish that, the legislature had to actually raise a few taxes, which, under an insane Republican anti-tax law, requires a 3/4 majority in both houses. Years of tax cuts (which somehow didn't make the state rich) had left Oklahoma's teacher pay near the bottom of the national rankings (Mississippi is worse, as always), and doing something about it wasn't easy, because see earlier Republican tax cuts and anti-tax laws. Yes, this sounds a lot like West Virginia, doesn't it? But hurrah, a pay raise!
Of course, it's still way short of the $10,000 a year raise the teachers had been demanding (plus a $5,000 raise for school support staff -- that wasn't included in the bill at all), so the Oklahoma Education Association's president, Alicia Priest, says Good -- that's a start. But teachers are still walking out Monday and traveling to Oklahoma City to let legislators know the measure they passed was only a down payment:
Priest added that the package simply isn't enough to "undo a decade of neglect" of education funding:
"This package doesn't overcome the shortfall caused by four-day weeks, overcrowded classrooms that deprive kids of the one-on-one attention they need. It's not enough," Priest said. "We must continue to push for more annual funding for our schools to reduce class size and restore more of the 28% of funds they cut from education over the last decade."
CNN put together this handy-dandy chart of the differences between Oklahoma teacher pay and the national average, using stats from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Oklahoma numbers are prior to the pay increase passed this week:
Also, as Vox notes, the failure to raise teacher wages for a decade means that, adjusted for inflation, the $6,100 wage increase would still only bring teacher salaries to what they'd have been worth in 2010. The state is still having a hard time finding and keeping good teachers, and that's not likely to improve with a wage that's still eight years out of date.
And so the teachers will be walking out on Monday, because the Lege hasn't really done the job. What's not clear is whether it will be a one-day work stoppage, or the start of a longer strike. It's worth noting that West Virginia teachers walked out and stayed out when their legislature only passed a piddling half-measure. The Oklahoma raise is better, but still so far from adequate -- and with no raise for support staff -- that nobody's sure whether the teachers will be back in classrooms on Tuesday, or taking up a loud, angry residence in the Statehouse. We'll keep you updated.
Those West Virginia teachers sure have stirred up a whole lot of Labor Unrest, too -- teachers in Arizona are talking about striking, and today, teachers in several counties in Kentucky have walked out in response to a vote by legislators yesterday to cut pensions for new teachers -- the bill kept pensions for current teachers in place, but teachers are smart enough that they're not about to betray new teachers by letting their future security be endangered. Why do Republican lawmakers keep thinking everyone's as venal as they are?
The striking Kentucky teachers took another cue from West Virginia, too: They've delivered packages of food for the kids who rely on school lunches for their meals:
@LEX18News Kentucky teachers care about every aspect of their students lives. Here at Breckinridge Elem in Fayette Co we came together to deliver over 400 bags of food to our students.#breckinridgecares pic.twitter.com/2w8EOBPwCC— Sarah N Williams (@jiminiwill) March 30, 2018
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