Oklahoma Teachers Continue Strike

Apr 7, 2018
Originally published on April 7, 2018 2:24 pm
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SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Many schools in Oklahoma were closed all week while their teachers rallied at the state capitol for more funding. Yesterday, the state Senate passed two measures that would increase money for schools by about $40 million. But the union leading the walkout said it's not enough, and they'll be back at the Capitol protesting on Monday. Emily Wendler in Oklahoma City has more.

EMILY WENDLER, BYLINE: Teachers in Oklahoma got a pay raise last week, but now they want more money for the classroom. And they've been rallying hard for that money all week.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: What do we want?

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Funding.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: When do we want it?

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Now.

WENDLER: Starting about 9 in the morning, they fill the Capitol rotunda and start chanting so loud the marble floors of the building shake. Within an hour, the Capitol is at max capacity.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: What do we want?

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Funding.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: When do we want it?

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Now.

WENDLER: For the most part, it's controlled chaos - with teachers jamming the hallways waiting to tell their lawmakers why schools need more money.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ASHLEY MACKEY: New textbooks, they've not been purchased for ten years - only replacements for those that are falling apart.

WENDLER: This is Ashley Mackey of Deer Creek, Okla., speaking with her representative. She and about 20 others are in their lawmakers' office explaining how 10 years of budget cuts have affected them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MACKEY: So we heavily rely on parent donations. That's for supplies, new curriculum.

WENDLER: By midweek, the teachers union laid out a set of demands they said could end the walkout. They wanted lawmakers to pass some specific legislation and restore funding cuts to Oklahoma classrooms. But they didn't say by how much. Two days later, it appeared a resolution was close. The state Senate announced they would take up two measures that could increase funding for education by about $40 million. On Friday, the Senate passed those measures. But after the vote, Alicia Priest, the president of the teachers union that's leading the walkout, said it's not enough. Teachers want more.

ALICIA PRIEST: After talking to thousands and thousands of people who have been here, they believe that this is the way forward.

WENDLER: The union now wants the governor and lawmakers to agree to raise certain taxes to pay for that additional school funding. Legislative leaders say that's not going to happen. For NPR News, I'm Emily Wendler in Oklahoma City.

(SOUNDBITE OF IVY SONG "TESS DON'T TELL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.