Teachers in Oklahoma have been on strike since April 2nd, and show no signs of stopping.
Oklahoma is one state in a string of protests that began in late February 2018. West Virginia, Kentucky and Arizona have also been taking to the streets instead of their classrooms. The educators have been protesting the fact that these states do not provide enough funding. After a tax increase passed, teachers exclaimed it would not be enough.
Oklahoma has not had the best funding for a basic need such as education.
“Oklahoma public school teachers are some of the lowest-paid in the nation. State funding for public schools has dropped nearly 9% since 2008, at the same time student enrollment rose by more than 8%. Oklahoma’s general education funding is down 28% per student over the same period when adjusted for inflation.”
In West Virginia, it took nine days before teachers saw any initiative and just a 5% increase in funding. In March, Oklahoma teachers had asked for $800 million in funding. Later that month, they received only $447 million increase in taxes. It’s not that these teachers are asking for raises, they are asking for more funding. This has actually decreased by 3% over the past ten years, but they are asking for funding to do a basic human right. Everyone deserves an education, in a positive setting with the right supplies.
One teacher on strike, Poppy Kelley in Oklahoma explained why her states schools were letting their students down; “Oklahoma kids for a decade are so used to not having enough or having to make do that they don’t know what ‘enough’ looks like,” Kelley said. “They want textbooks. They want chairs. They want tables that don’t have a bent leg. They want proper technology in the classrooms.”
When a teacher doesn’t have the supplies they need the classroom, they often go out of pocket, and out of the goodness of their hearts. Which costs a hefty fine “Nearly eight in 10 teachers — 77 percent — spent “at least” $200, with some as high as $5,000; but having supplies is not the only thing the funding would go towards. “Los Angeles Unified School district routinely has broken desks and chairs, missing ceiling tiles, damaged flooring, broken sprinklers, damaged lunch tables and broken toilet paper dispensers.”
New York City public schools removed more than 160 toxic light fixtures containing polychlorinated biphenyls, a cancer causing agent that also hinders cognitive and neurological development. Yet many schools are still waiting on a fix, especially those serving minority students.
At Charles L. Spain School in Detroit, the air vents are so warped and moldy; turning on the heat brings a rancid stench. Water drips from a leaky roof into the gym, warping the floor tiles. Cockroaches literally scurry around some children’s classrooms until they are squashed by student volunteers.
But these teachers are going unheard, or being simply mocked. Oklahoma governor Mary Falling compared teachers to a teenage kid that wants a better car. And the president has stated his stance as well. He has chosen to ignore the deplorable conditions public schools are in, and seems to think they are “flush with cash.”
What has been made clear here is that America’s educators are not valued enough and in turn education is not valued.
By: Chelsea Hinkofer
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