Last week, the Oklahoma Legislature signed off on a $6,100 raise for the state’s public school teachers. On Monday, they went on strike.
Thousands of teachers descended on the state capitol in Oklahoma City Monday, demanding that lawmakers match the initial demands of a $10,000 raise for educators, along with a $5,000 raise for other school personnel and $75 million in education funding after the Legislature only granted about $50 million, 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,” Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association teachers union, told the AP. “That obligation has not been met yet. Funding for our students is an issue in every schoolhouse in the state of Oklahoma.”
As a result of the walk outs, hundreds of schools closed and could potentially remain shuttered throughout the week. Aerial footage posted to social media showed the extent of the demonstrations.
Oklahoma ranks among the worst states in the country in terms of teacher salary. In 2016, the state placed 49th among all states plus the District of Columbia for average teacher salary, according to a National Education Association ranking.
The Oklahoma strikes are part of a larger movement growing across the country in recent weeks, as teachers in West Virginia and Arizona also rallied for more pay and investment. On Monday, Kentucky teachers additionally protested a pension reform plan in the state’s capital, Frankfort.
“We have no choice but to be here,” Jeffrey Peeno, a Kentucky teacher present at the Capitol told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “We have to represent what we do.”