Throughout the last two months, we have been hearing that many states are having issues with teacher walkouts over higher wages. So far, Oklahoma and Kentucky have been the main contenders on the issue for needing higher wages to survive. Teachers in over 70 Oklahoma school districts are in their second week of walkouts over needing higher wages. Last week, legislatures signed the House Bill 1010XX into action that would increase overall teacher pay by $6,100. However, this amount is still not enough.
Teachers are threatening to continue their walkouts until a $10,000 pay increase is met by legislatures. Currently, Oklahoma’s average teaching salary for public school teachers, which is between $41,000 and $42,500 a year, is under the national average of between $59,000 and $61,500 a year. The Oklahoma Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union that represents nearly 40,000 members and school personnel, stated that the House Bill 1010XX passage was a truly monumental moment for the teachers of Oklahoma. However, the Oklahoma Education Association still backs the teachers who are asking for me because not only are the wages being cut short but as are the resources given to students.
“This package does not overcome a shortfall that has caused four-day weeks and overcrowded classrooms that deprive kids of the one-on-one attention they need,” Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest said in a video posted on Facebook. “We must keep fighting for everything our students deserve.”
Students in Oklahoma are facing what many other students across the nation have also had to face during times of money deficiency, however, in many regards, their struggle is even more detrimental. In 2013, Oklahoma’s budget made headlines over the steep cuts to the education fund that were made. The states’ per-student school formula funding has dropped 23.6 percent over the past six years, significantly more than in any other state. Schools have been left to fight over the too few resources that are being offered to them, as class sizes increase and entire programs are eliminated. Oklahoma’s standards for class sizes and up-to-date textbooks were suspended when the recession hit. Since then lawmakers have repeatedly voted to suspend the standards because schools still can’t afford to meet them. The educators are not the only ones suffering, however, students are using textbooks without covers or held together with duct tape that are many editions behind the newest and some teachers have even reported students having to use chairs that are beginning to fall apart with how old they are.
As it can be seen, the conditions in schools across Oklahoma are negatively affecting the education of the students and the welfare of the educators. We can only hope that legislators will soon see that the only way to stop the strike and to regain control is to give the educators and students what they need.