In case you’ve missed the coverage, U.S. teachers are striking across the country, most notably in conservative states like Arizona, Kentucky and West Virginia. And today, fired up educators are making their case for higher pay in Oklahoma, one of the lowest-paying states for teachers in the country.
The advocacy comes at a time of growing scrutiny surrounding teacher pay, long a flash-point in North Carolina as well.
Of course, many of those protesting today face a different set of state laws than North Carolina, which does not allow for collective bargaining or strikes among state teachers.
From an NPR report today on Oklahoma’s ongoing strike:
Thousands of public school teachers across Oklahoma will stay out of the classroom – and many will take to the streets — starting today, after they rejected a pay raise they said fails to compensate for some of the lowest educators’ salaries in the country.
Last week, Gov. Mary Fallin signed raises of around $6,100 – about 15 to 18 percent per teacher, as well as $33 million for textbooks and $18 million in additional school funding, to be paid for with a tax increase on cigarettes, fuel and oil and gas production.
An estimated 30,000 are expected at a demonstration in the capital, Oklahoma City, on Monday.
“It’s day-by-day, depending upon the Legislature fulfilling their promise,” Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association teachers’ union, said according to The Associated Press. “We’re going to say that our Legislature started the process and they have a moral obligation to invest in our children and our children’s future. That obligation has not been met yet. Funding for our students is an issue in every schoolhouse in the state of Oklahoma.”
“We need more money for support staff, we need more money for the state education budget, we need more money for the cost of living adjustment for retired teachers,” Greg Oppel, a social studies teacher at Edmond Memorial High School was quoted by NewsOK as saying.
Given North Carolina laws, the state’s K-12 teachers aren’t planning their own walkouts, according to N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE) President Mark Jewell, whose organization lobbies for the public school agenda at the N.C. General Assembly.
But the organization is planning an advocacy day in Raleigh May 16, which is the day state lawmakers are scheduled to return to session.
Jewell tells Policy Watch the day will focus on teacher pay, textbook funding, classroom resources and “stopping the tax breaks for the wealthy and [corporations] and reinvesting in public schools.”
State lawmakers have approved teacher pay raises in recent years that raised North Carolina’s national ranking to 35th, with average pay falling just short of $50,000, according to a report last year from the nonpartisan National Education Association.
However, the state’s overall per-pupil spending ranks among the lowest in the nation, and textbook funding lags pre-recession levels, advocates say.