A weeks-long mobilization in Oklahoma resulted in teachers striking across the state on Monday, with tens of thousands of educators and supporters rallying at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City to demand more funding for schools and higher wages for teachers.
Organizers planned to speak with state lawmakers about how decades of funding cuts have affected their schools—and why a bill passed in the legislature last week that would raise taxes on oil and gas production to give teachers a $6,100 raise and allot $50 million for school funding was not enough to stop the protest.
Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) president Alicia Priest told CNN the package was “a good starting point,” but said teachers see it as a last-ditch effort by lawmakers to keep the strike from happening and not a genuine attempt to improve schools.
The OEA is demanding a $200 million funding bill for schools, and a $10,000 raise for teachers over the next three years.
Also on Monday, a strike in Kentucky over changes to teachers’ pension plans continued, with educators traveling from across the state to the State Capitol in Frankfort. Most schools were closed for spring break, with teachers and supporters using their time off to protest—while 21 counties’s schools closed for the strike.
Teachers in Arizona held a demonstration in Phoenix last week—also hoping to draw attention to per-student funding, which was cut by more than 36 percent from 2008 to 2015.
In all the states where teachers have been voicing their dissatisfaction, lawmakers have spent decades handing out tax cuts to corporations while cutting funding for schools and leaving teachers with stagnant wages.
“After ten long years in a lot of these conservative states, the chicken is finally coming home to roost,” Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, told the Huffington Post. “They’ve given tax breaks to big corporations, defunded public schools, and said, ‘What could go wrong?'”