Oklahoma protests

Second week of educator protests have yet to show yield

Sam Brown, Section Editor

Strikes in West Virginia have inspired teachers in Oklahoma to hold large demonstrations in the state capitol in  Oklahoma City. These demonstrations are meant to draw the attention of Oklahoma’s legislators, and create more funding for public schools. Currently some of the lowest paid teachers in the nation, these teachers have already received a pay increase of about $6,100 each year. However, the protesters remain because they believe that students do not yet have the necessary equipment in school to learn well. Other demands that they still want to be met are a raise of $10,000 for themselves, $5,000 for support staff, $200 million over a span of three years funneled into local schools and $500 million in funding over the next three years for public employees.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos responded to these demonstrations by urging teachers to return to work. “I think about the kids,” DeVos 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.” Response to her statement was largely negative, as the funding for Oklahoma Public schools is 30 percent lower than it was ten years ago.

Governor of Oklahoma Mary Fallin (R) also commented on the teachers that are currently standing outside of her office. She compared them to “a teacher that wants a better car.” Teachers responded the next day by waving their keys on the steps of the capitol and asking for a car. Fallin has yet to fully meet all of the demands of the protesters. She has only given $1,250 in annual raises for support staff, and raises ranging from $750 to $2,000 for state employees. $33 million have already been set aside for textbooks.

Texas may soon face a similar situation. Funding for schools is has been decreased remarkably in the last few years, being cut by 16 percent since 2008. Teacher salaries are $5,000 under the U.S. national average. Despite Texas teachers supporting the protests in other states, it is unlikely that they will follow suite and go on strike. Teachers that go on strike risk losing their teaching certificate and state pension, as striking is against the law.