Day 2 of the Oklahoma teacher walk out is in full swing, which could have some interesting consequences for the states Republican majority. Teachers chose the first week of April to try to force the Oklahoma legislature to raise teacher pay, but more importantly, funding for schools in the state. Many in the state are angry at the legislature’s lack of action over the last 10 years. During those 10 years, Oklahoma has gone from a Democrat majority to a Republican majority in the state legislature and the GOP now holds a super majority in both houses as well as a Republican Governor.
Countless observers see these walkouts as a demand for more money in the teacher’s pockets, but the continued demonstrations today show that it is more than just salary that the teachers are interested in. Last week, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill into law that gave teachers a 15 to 18 percent increase in salary, but did little to address other main concerns in the education system. Many schools have gone to a 4-day school week to save money on operating costs like heating and electricity due to insufficient funding. Most schools are using old, outdated textbooks as well because they don’t have enough money to purchase new ones.
The past 10 years has seen a total of $1 Billion dollars removed from the Oklahoma education system, which encompasses salaries as well as school funding for books, utilities and other extra-curricular activities. Coincidentally, the legislature in Oklahoma has shifted from blue to red starting 10 years ago as well. But, does correlation equal causation?
Whether or not Republicans are to blame for the failing schools and low teacher pay, it brings up the point that states do not have the ability to function in the same manner as the US Government. Spending money you don’t have is only reserved for Congress. Since the Republicans hold the super majority in both chambers of the legislature as well as the governor’s seat, you can bet they will feel some backlash at the ballot box this November, as many in the state are unhappy with the current state of affairs. Oklahoma has voted Republican in every single presidential election since 1968, so the possibility of the state turning blue anytime soon is quite unlikely… especially after the state voted 65% to 29% for Trump over Clinton in 2016.
No matter what side of the aisle you stand on, one thing can be agreed upon, our teachers need to get paid for what they do and schools need the funding to be able to turn the lights and heat on, as well as supply all the necessary items for a child’s primary and secondary education.
I stand with Oklahoma teachers!