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Teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky stage protests

03 April 2018, 04:45 | Gina Pena

“I had to say something,” Moore middle school student vocalizes her support of teacher walkout

Your guide to the Oklahoma teacher walkout

Tens of thousands of teachers in the states of Kentucky and Oklahoma on Monday are protesting low pay and demanding more education funding for students.

The new law will give the average teacher a $6,100 raise - but that's not enough to stop a mass walkout on April 2.

"It wasn't but a few years after House Bill 1017 was passed that we saw class sizes returned to larger sizes", Wolfe said.

News 9's Dana Hertneky talked to John Hazle, Oklahoma's 2017 "Teacher of the Year", who was up at the Capitol with about a dozen other finalists for "Teacher of the Year".

"If I didn't have a second job, I'd be on food stamps", said Rae Lovelace, a single mom and a third-grade teacher at Leedey Public Schools in northwest Oklahoma.

Fallin on Monday praised the Oklahoma's GOP-led Legislature's achievement in approving part of what teacher's want. In Arkansas, public school teachers earn an average of $48,218 annually, while teachers in Texas make an average of $51,890 a year. "We must be responsible not to neglect other areas of need in the state such as corrections and health and human services as we continue to consider additional education funding measures".

Mr. Karvelis, 23, said teachers would not walk out of class unless they were able to win support from parents and community members across the state, including in rural areas.

Teachers were incensed by passage of a bill last week that mandates a hybrid pension plan with individual accounts for new hires.

"You can honor that commitment and say, 'I will do whatever I can".

Teachers in both states asked lawmakers to support education by allocating more funds as they hundreds of students walked side-by-side with their teachers.

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The protests come a month after teachers in West Virginia won a pay raise after shutting down schools for almost two weeks before winning a pay raise. It is not yet clear when or if Arizona teachers will go on strike.

Many Oklahoma schools, including the three largest districts, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Edmond, are closed Monday to honor the walkout.

Organizers estimated that more than 5,000 people gathered inside and outside the Capitol, though no official estimate was available.

One Muldrow Public Schools teacher detailed the impact of education funding cuts.

"Well, teachers in the state of Kentucky do not have access to Social Security when we retire, even if we had paid into that system prior to becoming teachers, so this is our only means of support for ourselves when we are of old age", explained Kentucky teacher Angie Buschle. Most districts are out on spring break and those remaining have closed to accommodate teachers attending the rally.

Main said some grassroots groups supporting teachers are planning to form a ring around the state capitol building early Monday to prevent lawmakers from entering and Bevin from signing the bill. In addition, some schools do not have electricity because of unpaid bills.

"We followed that very carefully, and then when it was signed. we went back and redid the poll", Woods said, "and it came back that more people wanted to stay in school, while allowing anyone who wanted to go to represent us at the Capitol". "If we continue to stay united, they can not turn away from us, they can not turn their backs on us".

Republican lawmakers in Kentucky passed a pension overhaul Thursday that preserves benefits for most workers but cuts them for new teachers. The move was done in response to one of the worst-funded public retirement systems in the country and in defiance of a powerful teachers union that vowed political retribution.

But he said he and his colleagues, many of whom have called in sick to protest the bill, were angry about not having a seat at the negotiation table with Mr. Bevin, a Republican, and the Republican majority in the Legislature. "Our state deserves better", said first-year teacher Diane Young, who calls the lack of funding "an outright assault on public education".

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