Rebellion of teachers targets pay, pensions
The state Capitol in Kentucky filled with teachers protesting pension changes and demanding generous school funding Monday, and thousands of Oklahoma educators walked out of classrooms in the latest evidence of teacher rebellion in some Republican-led states.
Many Oklahoma schools were closed Monday, and districts announced plans to stay shut into Tuesday with teacher demonstrations expected to last a second day.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation last week granting teachers pay raises of about $6,100, or 15 to 18 percent. But some educators — who haven’t seen a pay increase in 10 years — say that isn’t good enough and walked out.
The state’s largest teachers union has demanded a $10,000 pay raise for educators over three years, $5,000 for support personnel and a $75 million increase in funding this year.
“If I didn’t have a second job, I’d be on food stamps,” said Rae Lovelace, a single mom and a third-grade teacher at Leedey Public Schools in northwest Oklahoma. Lovelace, among many teachers who moonlight for extra pay , works 30 to 40 hours a week at a second job teaching online courses for a charter school.
Fallin on Monday praised the Oklahoma’s GOP-led Legislature’s achievement in approving part of what teacher’s want.
“Significant revenue-raising measures were approved to make this pay raise and additional school funding possible,” the Republican said in a statement. “We must be responsible not to neglect other areas of need in the state such as corrections and health and human services as we continue to consider additional education funding measures.
But Democratic lawmaker Collin Walke said teachers should keep up the pressure. Two separate bills pending in the Legislature to expand tribal gambling and eliminate the income tax deduction for capital gains could generate more than $100 million in additional funding each year.
Oklahoma ranks 47th among states and the District of Columbia in public school revenue per student while its average teacher salary of $45,276 ranked 49th before the latest raises, according to the most recent statistics from the National Education Association.
In Frankfort, Kentucky, teachers and other school employees chanted “Stop the war on public education.”
“We’re madder than hornets, and the hornets are swarming today,” said Claudette Green, a retired teacher and principal.
Schools across Kentucky were closed, due either to spring break or to allow teachers to attend the rally.