Teachers in Oklahoma — where public schools in Oklahoma have seen the biggest cuts in the country in per-pupil funding, and their teachers rank near the bottom in average pay — watched intently as their counterparts in West Virginia went on strike earlier this month.
And as the West Virginia strike continued, teachers and labor organizers in Oklahoma began coordinating their own demands for the state legislature, ultimately asking for a $10,000 raise for teachers, a $5000 raise for support staff and an additional $200 million in school funding to cover basics like textbooks and classroom supplies. If their demands are not met, the teachers plan on walking out of their classrooms on April 2.
The situation in Oklahoma was created, in large part, by tax incentives offered up by Governor Mary Fallin that benefitted the state’s oil and energy industries as well as tax cuts that disproportionally helped the top income bracket. Meanwhile, teacher salaries in Oklahoma have not budged in ten years, even as insurance and cost of living expenses have gone up. Things got so bad last year, that, in an effort to cut costs, roughly 20 percent of school districts in the state enacted a furlough cutting the school week down to just four days.
VICE News traveled to Oklahoma City to meet with Bonnie Green, an early childhood education teacher and a 30-year veteran of Oklahoma City Public schools, who now has to take on a second — and third — job, just to make ends meet.
This segment originally aired March 26, 2018, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.