Low teacher pay in the United States came into focus earlier this month when educators in West Virginia, whose pay is slightly higher than in Oklahoma, held a nine-day strike that ended after they received a 5 percent pay rise.
Oklahoma ranks 47th in the nation in public school revenue per student, almost $3,000 below the national average, while its average teacher salary of $45,276 ranks 49th, according to the most recent statistics from the National Education Association.
Oklahoma Education Association president Alicia Priest said, "Lawmakers have ignored pay for far too long. It's not enough", she continued. "We must continue to push for more annual funding for our schools to reduce class size and restore more of the 28% of funds they cut from education over the last decade".
Tulsa Public Schools and Owasso Public Schools made it official Thursday afternoon that its schools will be shut down Monday because teachers are going to the Capitol.
The OEA, which has about 40,000 members, has said it is seeking a $10,000 pay increase over three years for teachers and a $5,000 raise for support personnel. The West Virginia strike kept the state's schools closed for nine consecutive school days and continued after lawmakers passed a one-time five percent raise, with teachers insisting that all their demands be met.More news: Trump Will Sign $1.3 Trillion Spending Bill Despite Veto Threat
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"What yesterday looked like a positive step forward and a historic down payment on our children's future now hangs in the balance as the legislature dismantles the funding needed to solve this crisis they created in the first place", Priest said.
When adjusted for inflation, the center's report shows a almost 28 percent reduction over the past 10 years. "This gets us part of the way there, and so we need to have the Legislature guarantee that we are still working to get to that", Priest had told CNN affiliate KFOR. She heard from students about how their schools are preparing for the teacher strike. "If teachers walkout, you have the opportunity to create hardship for the very students that they work so hard to serve every day so I'm concerned about that and hope they could find a way to express their position without doing that".
The teachers are fighting not just for their own salaries, but for boosts to the whole public education system. Oklahoma was also ranked 47th in expenditures for public K-12 students per student in 2016, according to the National Education Association. "We have among the highest class sizes and school counselor loads in the nation, making it hard to meet the individual needs of our students", the group stated.
HFV Wilson Community Center Executive Director Jacob Lohse says they're expecting around 300 hundred kids next week. They want better pay and are encouraging each other to organize via social media.