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OK & KY teachers walk out

April 16, 2018

The morning of April 2 saw thousands of Oklahoma and Kentucky teachers walk off the job. These demonstrations shut down school districts across both states as the educators protested cuts in pay, benefits, and school funding.

Katrina Ruff, a local Oklahoma City teacher, stood with hundreds of fellow protestors at the Capitol chanting “No funding, no future!” She says that the movement this year in West Virginia gave them “…the guts to stand up for ourselves.”

Crowding into the rotunda of the Oklahoma State Capitol, the teachers lobbied lawmakers to pass a tax package that would raise another $200 million for schools. Just last week, Oklahoma legislature voted to provide an average raise of $6,000 per year to teachers. However, teachers said this was not enough and have asked for a $10,000 raise and additional school funding.

As school funding has fallen 30% in the past decade, teachers now threaten lawmakers: Increase education funding, or teachers will not return to work.

Rusty Bradley, a high school technology teacher in Oklahoma for nearly 28 years said “I’m fed up. I want them to get off their butts and do something.” He has witnessed lawmakers repeatedly pledge to give teachers raises and restore funding, only to be disappointed.

About 200 of Oklahoma’s 500 school districts shut down Monday, April 2 and protests continued to Tuesday. As parents and teachers staged sympathy rallies, public school districts were forced to suspend classes for about 500,000 of the state’s 700,00 public school students.

In Kentucky, a teacher’s salary averaged around $52,000 in contrast to Oklahoma’s $45,000, however teachers there are picketing over their spring break and protesting a pension reform bill that passed the State House and Senate last week. If the bill is signed into law, it will phase out defined-benefit pensions for teachers and replace them with hybrid retirement plans that combine traditions pensions with features of 401(k) accounts.

Kentucky Governor, Matt Bevin, who holds the Republican majority in the Legislature said, “What I’m seeing in Louisville is teachers are a lot more politically engaged than they were in 2015 or 2016. It really is a wildfire.”

Almost thirty Oklahoma schools have announced cancellation for Wednesday’s classes and admitted that if they do not see a legislative change, the protests could continue through the week.

Emma Hildebrand
Contributing Writer

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