OKLAHOMA CITY — Hundreds of schools were closed Monday in Oklahoma and Kentucky as teachers went on strike in both states. An estimated 36,000 Oklahoma teachers walked out of class and marched to the state capital, vowing to fight for better wages and more funding for their classrooms.
Hope Davis, 15, told the crowd that the learning environment is so bad at her school, she’s taking some courses online. The Moore High School sophomore even brought one of her textbooks for show-and-tell: a tattered 12-year-old history book held together by masking tape.
Davis said she would “rather move to Texas” than finish school in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma teachers rank 49th in pay and haven’t received a raise in more than a decade. For weeks, teachers threatened a walkout unless lawmakers raised their pay by $10,000.
Last week, the Republican-controlled legislature passed a tax hike to increase teacher pay by an average of $6,100. Under the new law, new Oklahoma teachers will have to work eight years to reach a $40,000 annual salary. It currently takes 20 years to reach the $40,000 a year level.
“We’ve had teachers leaving for years, and now it’s getting so bad the kids want to leave, too,” said Bartlesville teacher Brian Davis.
We caught up with the father of two, who earns extra cash as a pitching coach and driving for Uber. The 20-year teaching veteran earns less than $42,000, so a raise will help, but the 45-year-old said the hike may not be enough to help starting teachers make a living.
“I have two daughters. I think one of them would like to be a teacher, but I told her, ‘if you do go into education, be ready to not be in Oklahoma,'” said Davis.
Another rally is planned for Tuesday morning at the capitol, and teachers from Oklahoma City and Tulsa — the states two largest districts — will be here.