Oklahoma teachers march to seek more funding for schools


Oklahoma teacher Amy Mayes (used with permission)

Oklahoma teachers and their supporters march on the capital for more education spending by the state.

Blue Brasher, Reporter

It is quite the pivotal time to be alive in the United States in 2018. It is a season of American revolution as forces of activism and protest are stirring across the country. From women marches to gun control walkouts, citizens are making America take a second look at itself. The most recent movements are the teacher walkouts and marches in Oklahoma and Kentucky.

Oklahoma teachers are putting their foot down and refusing to take any more neglect from their state legislators. The teachers seek better pay and increased education funding. They say their class sizes are too big and some don’t even have enough textbooks for students.

These teachers have a right to be angry because for years they have been asking the Legislature to reverse a decade of school funding cuts and to increase teacher pay, which had ranked one of the worst in the nation. Since 2008, state funding for Oklahoma public schools has decreased nearly 9 percent, while student enrollment has increased by over 8 percent. This means the state’s general funding of schools is down 28 percent per student.

Last week, the state Legislature approved more than $400 million in new taxes to fund a $6,100 teacher raise, $33 million for textbooks, and $18 million in additional expenses. Yet, many teachers spoke out to say that lawmakers had not done enough and that they would not step down.

Greg Oppel, a social studies teacher at Edmond Memorial High School spoke for all the teachers, “We need more money for support staff, we need more money for the state education budget, we need more money for the cost of living adjustment for retired teachers.”

Hundreds of Oklahoma teachers held a walkout on Monday and Tuesday, and filled the state Capitol, demanding an additional $150 million in school funding and increased raises for themselves and support staff.

Now, more than 100 people, including teachers, parents, and other supporters, began a 110-mile march across Oklahoma Wednesday morning. The marchers plan to walk from Tulsa to Oklahoma City, the state capital, to join thousands of teachers who have been protesting all week for higher pay and more resources.The Oklahoma protesters are joining teachers from Kentucky, Arizona, and other states that have been fighting for better treatment. In West Virginia, teachers got a pay raise last month for going on a nine-day strike.

It’s looking like these teachers won’t back down until their voices are heard and respected. Teachers are saying this will only resolve itself once “Legislature provides a substantial funding increase for public schools.” These teachers are adding to the active atmosphere of 2018. They are really inspiring the nation: showing that everyone has a voice and no one should have to back down from their rights.

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