Oklahoma teachers prepare to strike
Only two states pay their teachers less than West Virginia.
One of them is Oklahoma, which is about to see a statewide teachers strike.
Oklahoma’s Senate could begin deliberations as early as Tuesday on the Republican-dominated legislature’s first major tax increase in a quarter century to secure funds for raising the pay of teachers, who are threatening to walk off the job next week.
The measure, which would raise about $450 million to fund increased pay for teachers, school staff and state workers, passed the House late Monday by a 79-19 vote. But the money may not be enough to satisfy the demands of Oklahoma’s teachers, who rank among the worst paid in the United States.
The teachers have demanded a $10,000 pay increase over three years for teachers and a $5,000 raise for support personnel. The measure that passed the House gives a $5,000 pay raise for a beginning teacher and a $8,000 raise for a teacher with 25 years of experience.
That's a half-measure, and even that is too much for Republicans.
Some legislators, like Republican John Bennett of Sallisaw, weren’t happy.
"How many times have we seen these tax increase bills rolled out to us over the past year we’ve been in session? Well, here’s a plan, we’ll do this one. Here’s a plan, we’ll do this one. Here’s a plan, we’ll do this one, having complete disregard for the citizens."
Is this America? Teachers in Oklahoma make ends meet by SELLING THEIR BLOOD PLASMA! THEY ARE THE VICTIMS OF UNBELIEVABLE CUTBACKS! #STRIKE
— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) March 21, 2018
Oklahoma teachers, which got some headlines earlier this year when it was reported that some schools were going to 4-day weeks so the teachers could work at Walmart, have been losing ground for decades.
Lyon compared her net pay from 2009 to now and realized she has barely received any additional compensation in almost nine years. Any raise she has received in the past she said has been taken by the rising insurance costs.
"It would take a $6,000 teacher pay raise right now just to make up the difference what they've lost over the last 10 years,” said Katherine Bishop, the vice president of the Oklahoma Education Association.
Teachers there have been posting their pay stubs on Facebook, and people are noticing.
In fact, according to a recent poll, Oklahoma teachers enjoy immense public support.
The results from an exclusive News on 6 poll, conducted by SoonerPoll.com, indicate that a majority of voters support changing the way money is allocated – and even changing the state constitution, if that’s what it takes.
Bill Shapard from SoonerPoll says, “I think people look at this and say, ‘that’s a crisis.’”
Right now, money collected from property taxes can only go toward construction or renovation of schools, or to buy furniture.
A combined 63.5 percent of voters say they support putting that money toward teacher salaries. Thirty percent say they strongly support that change.
“What people are basically saying is…teachers are just as big a part of that school as the equipment, the desks, the classrooms,” said Shapard.
West Virginia teachers may have started something big.