Brief # 21 Education
Teachers in Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona have been participating in walkouts in an effort to raise salary increases for teachers and increase funding for their schools. These protests come in the wake of teacher walkouts in West Virginia after state legislature approved a 5% raise after nine days of the teacher led movement.
In Oklahoma teachers are asking for a $10,000 raise, a $5,000 raise for support staff and $200 million over three years for funding of schools. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has since signed a bill to fund a $6,000 raise for teachers and $1,250 raise for support staff. The same bill provides only $33 million for textbooks as opposed to the $200 million over three years.
In Kentucky, teachers are protesting education budget cuts, and a change in retirement plans for new teachers that would eliminate pension plans and create a retirement plan similar to a 401(k) which is used in the private sector. The new bill would also limit the amount of sick days teachers are allowed to put towards their retirement.
In Arizona teachers want a 20% raise to increase wages to those of neighboring states like Colorado and New Mexico, and they want increased school funding. They’re asking that the state of Arizona implements no new tax cuts until the per-pupil spending in state matches the national average.
West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona are red states, where Republican legislators have consistently passed tax cuts that benefit the businesses and cut funding for public services. These budget cuts have largely impacted classrooms and the students in them. A picture on Facebook posted by an Oklahoma art teacher, Laurissa Kovacs, has gone viral. In the post she says how she has up to 32 students in some of her classes and not enough chairs for all her students to sit in. The chairs they do have are broken and the bottoms are falling out from under kids. Another viral post, a tweet by a parent of an Oklahoma Public School student, shows an image of a textbook that still lists George W. Bush as the current president of the United States.
According to The 74, a nonprofit news site that covers education in the U.S., “When adjusted for inflation, education spending in 29 states (including Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona) was less in 2015 than it was in 2008.”
In light of the walkouts and the response from some legislators, teachers are now planning to run for local offices. One example is Cyndi Ralston, who is running to unseat Republican Representative Kevin McDugle. McDugle has said of the teacher walkouts, “I’m not voting for another stinking measure when they are acting the way they are acting.” In response Ralston announced her campaign by saying, “When my colleagues and I have visited our Republican representatives and senators, we have been brushed off, if not outright lied to. Republican members of the legislature have made it crystal clear that they do not believe they work for us, that our concerns do not matter. . . If Kevin McDugle won’t fight for teachers and students, then I will. If Kevin McDugle won’t back parents over oil companies, I will.” In Kentucky, 40 teachers or other educators have filed to run for office, and Arizona has also seen an increase in educators file to run for office.
Teacher walkouts are expected to continue in the following week in Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona.
Research—Learn how much your state spends per-pupil and what the average teacher salary is in each state.
Contact your elected officials—Let them know that teacher wages and education spending are important issues to you.
This brief was compiled by Rebecca Leclerc. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief please contact, firstname.lastname@example.org.