Teachers in Revolt: Meet the Educators in Kentucky & Oklahoma Walking Out over School Funding

Teachers in Revolt: Meet the Educators in Kentucky & Oklahoma Walking Out over School Funding

this is democracy now i meani goodman schools across oklahoma are closed today for a third day as teachers continue their strike demanding more funding for education and increased plant pay Oklahoma's public education budget has been slashed more than any other state since the start of the recession in 2008 and its teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation scores of teachers are planning to begin 123 mile protest march today from Tulsa to Oklahoma City meanwhile thousands of teachers continue to protest in Kentucky demanding a reversal to a provision in a recently passed bill about sewage treatment that gutted teacher pension benefits on Monday every school in the state was closed either due to spring break or anticipation of a massive rally in the capital of Frankfort when teachers filled the rotunda of the Kentucky State Capitol chanting fund our schools this is Kentucky Education Association president Stephanie Winkler [Applause] this year's wave of teacher rebellions began in West Virginia where teachers one of five percent pay raise after an historic strike the protests have also inspired teachers in other states including Arizona where union members are threatening to strike unless their demand for 20 percent wage increases met the teacher protests in West Virginia Oklahoma Kentucky in Arizona have been described by some as a red state revolt in 2016 Donald Trump won all four states meanwhile in higher education news non-tenured faculty at Loyola University Chicago are planning to go on strike today for more on teacher uprisings we go to Oklahoma in Kentucky we're joined by four guests in Oklahoma Andrea Thomas a 9th and 11th grade English teacher at Newcastle high school outside of Oklahoma City has taught for 19 years is now on strike Mickey McCoy is a retired English teacher and school board member in Eastern Kentucky taught for 27 years also in Kentucky we're joined by democratic state representative Atticus Scott who serves on the House Education Committee in 2016 she became the first African American woman to serve on Kentucky's state legislature in 20 years and we're joined by Mike elk senior labor reporter at payday report in a correspondent for The Guardian Elks recent pieces headlined Arab Spring for teachers educators in Oklahoma join wave of strikes Mike let's begin with you in Oklahoma just give us an overview of what's taken place after the successful West Virginia strike a lot of teachers here had already been talking prior to the West Virginia strike about organizing some sort of walkout but when they saw teachers in West Virginia win that nine day strike that historic strike it gave them a lot of confidence to keep pushing and so what happened here is that over 100 school districts throughout the state now are out on strike and in some of these school districts the Democratic superintendents of the schools are actually quite supportive because of how bad the funding cuts are my colleague and I Corina Marino the brilliant public administration professor at Long Island Brooklyn crunched the numbers and Oklahoma has cut more from its state budget since 2009 than any other state in the country it has one of the lowest tax rates on oil natural gas that tax rate is effective 3% tax rate on oil natural gas production in comparison Texas neighboring Texas which pays its teachers a starting salary of 18,000 more taxes oil natural gas and an effect afraid of 8% so what we're seeing here is that teachers are demanding a lot more in terms of funding already the state has passed a six thousand dollar pay raise for teachers but teachers are saying it's about a lot more than a pay raise it's about funding classrooms it's about having textbooks I've talked and interviewed so many teachers that are telling me that they can't even get proper supplies or textbooks they can't assign homework because they can't risk losing a two hundred dollar textbook and they tell me that their students know that the state's not investing in education and this is at a time that Oklahoma is booming you know you go to downtown Oklahoma City you go to downtown Tulsa and the place is booming with oil money so it's a question of taxation and it's a question of rolling it back and we're seeing teachers can make a very bold stand in almost every teacher I talked to emphasizes that this is a strike not about raises but about making sure they get more money for the classroom and you know it looks like he'll go on for at least a week or two the superintendent in Tulsa where I'm at just announced that she would close schools for an entire week and she's appearing later today that the superintendent of Tulsa at a rally to kick off 123 mile march from Tulsa to Oklahoma City that's expected to take a week so this strike here will go on for a while and it looks like the strike in Kentucky will go on for some time too and it's gonna be incredible to see what kind of ripple effect this has so let's go to Andrea Thomas Andrea Thomas who is in Oklahoma City you're a teacher you've been a teacher for almost two decades you and your husband in the Oklahoma schools talk about why you're striking and what you're demanding yes well the legislature you know they have passed the 6,000 dollar raise and we can live with that what we're what we're fighting for now is for the kids like I've seen so many signs that have said we're here for the kids we're here for the kids I've had students come and support us it's about funding for the classrooms it's about technology you know we're lacking in technology at our school it's about being able to implement safety measures we haven't you know in our society today we'd love to implement more safety measures but it's so hard to do our librarian she you know we don't have a library budget if she wants new books for our library she has to do fundraisers it's about class size and my class sizes have grown immensely in the past few years you know classes of thirty five and it's just so much harder to have a relationship with your students and do what's best for them whenever you have so many and you're just trying to survive Andrea in Oklahoma I think the teacher salaries are like 49th in the country that's 49 out of 50 also in some school districts there's so little money that classes are only four days a week they close school on the fifth day also so teachers can make some extra money doing other jobs how do you and your husband get by yes we are relying on that fifth day now for our extra jobs we both work at an herbalife shop we both you know sell Herbalife we I sell Monat I clean houses my husband he even sells plasma you know his own plasma when things get super tough yes you find are you signing the houses of your students you know no I do for a shop and for you know just some people in town that will amaze people around the country that schools are closed on the fifth day for teachers to be able to make more money and just because they can't keep the schools open I wanted to go across to Kentucky to Mickey McCoy you're a retired English teacher deeply concerned about your pension can you talk about what's happening in Kentucky now as thousands of teachers have descended on the State Capitol in Frankfort talk about what you're most concerned with well I'm most concerned with and most of my brothers and sisters who have come down to 12 to 15,000 the other day are concerned about this war that is on education there's a war on public education and it seems that the teachers didn't need to be drafted they volunteered and they will continue to volunteer until we can straighten out the things that need to be straightened out it's not just about pensions it's not just about our medical insurance do you understand that we have like youth service centers that are being cut and these youth service centers help the kids both in urban areas and in in in in rural areas where I'm from with with things that they need not only just school supplies but a shirt on their back shoes on their feet they give them extra food to take home and and this legislature well this governor governor Matt Bevins is sort of like a general in this war on education public education and wants to replace public education with charter schools charter schools that will pick and choose who they're going to teach charter schools who who will not care for who will not take the underprivileged kids they seem to are able to build their little school the way they want to and this if this is allowed to be funded in Kentucky or any state we're going to change this nation into a place of the haves and have-nots and we ain't gonna let that happen no not in Kentucky I wanted to turn to the person who's sitting right next to you the Kentucky state representative at Attica Scott Attica Scott is the first african-american woman to serve on Kentucky State listserv in Kentucky state legislature in 20 years thousands of teachers descended on the Capitol yesterday can you talk about what it was like to simply get into your building state definitely yes thank you so much I I actually come from an activism and organizing background as the former coordinator of Kentucky jobs with justice so for me it was exciting to see and it's the kind of mobilizing and organizing that we need to have more of in Kentucky we need more of that righteous anger that dr. King had we need more of the people descending on their State Capitol and saying that Kentucky deserves better and I was there with my daughter who is a public school student who wanted to be in Frankfort to support her public school teachers and to support public employees across Kentucky and we made our way through the crowd speaking to people high-fiving with people saying to people thank you for being here thank you for speaking up for the people who can't make it to Frankfort and for both of us we understood clearly why it was such a tight pathway to get from my office in the Capitol annex into the Capitol building and that was just fine because we weren't the legislators who were trying to destroy public education or hurt public employees and public teachers instead we you know I'm the legislature my daughter is a student who supports public education so we weren't afraid to walk through the crowd we walked through the crowd and we knew we were walking through a group of friends and family members who were there standing up for themselves while I went into the house neighbor's to fight for and with them um can you explain state representative Scott the whole issue of demanding reversal to a provision in a recently passed bill about sewage treatment that guts the pension benefits so the sewage pension bill Senate bill 151 on the Thursday before Good Friday that morning it was a sewage bill and by that afternoon it was the so-called pension reform bill a bill that members of the committee only had about five minutes to read a bill that in fact is probably illegal because we did not have an actuarial analysis of fiscal impact statement on the bill and how it would impact the available contract that we have with our public educators and yet members of the committee then those of us on the House floor were expected to vote on that bill pass it out with little to no debate in the committee we had extensive debate on the House floor but it passed anyway because as Mickey said the governor and his followers in the legislature are determined to destroy public education and taking away the agreement that we made with teachers the inviolable contract and moving their retirement benefits into a 401k plan that violates our commitment to our public employees and the way in which we and I say wait we because I'm part of the legislature but it's really the so-called new Republican majority the way that they pushed that bill forward made it very clear that they knew that what they were doing was wrong they knew that what they were doing was not in the best interest of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and those of us who are on the right side of this issue knew it as well I understand that the Education Association called for everyone to wear red kind of Oh wearing red is a sign of solidarity and a red state revolt Mickey are you wearing red Fred you know it just happened to just fit so well that I put it on and state Rep Scott same with you your blouse I'm definitely wearing red for public ed well on Tuesday night independent senator Bernie Sanders tweeted out a video message applauding the teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky you know there are pundits out there who talk about blue states and red states and purple states I have never believed that I think that any state in this country which has working people struggling economically struggling to send their kids to school struggling for health care struggling for child care that is a state that can become progressive and I want to applaud the teachers in West Virginia and Oklahoma in Kentucky so-called red states who are helping to lead this country to change our national priorities what say loudly and clearly that we got to take care of our kids we've got to take care of our schools and that is more important than giving tax breaks to billionaires and large corporations thank you teachers in West Virginia two teachers in Oklahoma Thank You teachers in Kentucky we're with you so that is senator Bernie Sanders you are in the state state representative Scott of Kentucky that is the state of the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has he weighed in in any way and how can the federal body the Congress deal with this strike that is now crossing the country from West Virginia to Oklahoma to Kentucky unfortunately the Senate majority leader has not weighed in in any way that would make any bit of difference for the people in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and that's why what you've seen is a grassroots movement you've seen the hashtag 120 strong those are grassroots folks who have said you know what we don't actually need elected officials to be our spokespeople we'll speak for ourselves and we'll organize ourselves from Appalachian to urban to rural to suburban areas and will descend on and will take over our state capitol will shut down our public schools until we not only get what we want as far as the public pension but also making sure that we take care of our kids how dare we in the Commonwealth of Kentucky remove funding for textbooks from our budget on Monday of this week we removed funding from for textbooks from our budget that is something that is inexcusable unacceptable and Kentucky deserves better I want to go back to and Roy Thomas and Oklahoma what effect did the West Virginia very successful West Virginia strike have on you going out on strike and also your concerns about your daughter she's a junior in high school right now yes I would say the West Virginia strikes were inspiring for us as teachers I'm in a Facebook group and there's been a lot of West Virginia teachers pipe in and say stay strong we've got you we support you so that's nice as far as my daughter is concerned yes she's a junior in high school I am very concerned about how we're going to afford to send her to college it's just so hard in the environment that we have and the lack of funding that we have it's just really hard to make it me and to find a way to send your own kid to school um I can't I can tell you go ahead and try I mean I can give you an example like they had a deal at our school where kids were getting in class rings my daughter didn't get a class ring we couldn't afford a class ring I knew it's just things like that you and your husband are both teachers your husband is selling his own blood you're cleaning houses in addition to teaching you've got four day a week school is that right this is public school or Oklahoma so the fifth day because they can't afford to keep the schools open the fifth day and so you can work second and third jobs yes and it does help with our second and third jobs we have managed I feel like to handle that situation very well our students are still performing well with our four-day week they are still getting the same amount of time that they got before I feel like I might even be even getting more in in my lessons because I have longer hours so it hasn't been negative but it's it's been helpful for us as teachers and finally Mike elk as you look at this movement across the country particularly in red states the states that elected Donald Trump you've been covering education for years you come out of West Virginia the successful teachers strike your final thoughts well Amy I think we're in a new era I think we're in a new period and you know I the only thing I can really compare this to is when we were organizing as digital media journalists and I remember I was leading a drive at Politico in which I was fired and Washington Post wrote an article why don't Internet journalists to organize it was featured some of our organizing there at Politico and I just remember hundreds of reporters tweeting about it and saying we're gonna get it done and the next couple years we organized three outlets including getting a first contract at HuffPo Guardian where I work and other publications and what we found in that movement I think is what a lot of teachers are finding now is the social media support has really changed the game teachers know when they're out on a picket line and they post a photo and hundreds of their neighbors like it on Facebook that people have their back and that feedback loops quite simply didn't exist so I think we're getting into a new era here people are upset with the war on teachers you know we've seen students walk out over Donald Trump repeal of daca we've seen students walk out over gun violence we're seeing teachers walk out now and you know in the state of Oklahoma as well as in Kentucky we're seeing a lot of local school board's being very supportive of folks walking out so it's no longer a teachers union versus the school board or teachers union versus the students it's really students teachers and school board's coming together against some of these Republican dominated state legislators where do I have to leave it there Mike but we're going to continue of course to follow this and we're going to link to your piece as you are senior labor reporter at payday report wave of teachers wildcat strike spreads to Oklahoma and Kentucky as you speak to us from Tulsa thanks so much and Andrew Thomas speaks to us from Oklahoma City and Micky McCoy a retired English teacher and state Democratic legislature Attica Scott speak to us from Louisville Kentucky this is democracy now when we come back speaking about movements we go south we go to Memphis Tennessee 50 years ago today a man who led major movements dr. Martin Luther King was gunned down was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel stay with us

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27 thoughts on “Teachers in Revolt: Meet the Educators in Kentucky & Oklahoma Walking Out over School Funding

  1. the money is backed by nothing and printed rapidly with no end in sight, this destroys the purchasing power of money by about 5 to 10% per year, for this reason teacher need to ask for raises, if we had sound money backed by gold as well as a return to silver in the coinage in addition free markets for the poor to help maintain the value of money/currency we can stabilize the cost of living and wages….without economic freedom and sound money YOU,I and THEM will NEVER EVER be able to secure and nurture ; SOUND MIND, SELF WORTH AND MATURITY,,,,,,IN TURN FROM THERE WE WILL BE UNABLE TO FOSTER AND MAINTAIN LOVE, EMPATHY AND FORGIVENESS, especially in ways that can be measured for true genuine VALUE………and it is for the reason that societies have not had economic freedom and sound money that societies have been collapsing since 200BC, we know for a fact that government in cooperation with economic monopolists are responsible for every boom bust economic cycle going back to 200 BC…….ECONOMIC COLLAPSES are not new and have been occuring for over 2000 years all for the sake of maintaining a monopoly of power and economy concentrated in a few hands and it is those elites that suffer just as much as we do as a result of the continued mid evil and out dated societal management tools and strategies,,,,,,,,,its time to give the poor the universal right to open and operate a hot dog stand or fruit cart without interference by corporate elites and the government gun holstering policy enforcers…….this way everyone from the peak of the pyramid to the foundation can for the first time develop and maintain ; SOUND MIND, SELF WORTH AND MATURITY AND IN TURN FROM THERE THE ABILITY FOR LOVE, EMPATHY AND FORGIVENESS…………..thank u and i hope this was enlightening for you

  2. They care so much about education, then children should be in school learning. Don't become a school teacher, you knew and know what you're getting into before you're hired. You getting a raise isn't about "the children" or their "education", you still teach the same no matter what your income is. Some inner-city schools should get more funding, that I could agree on. As for your raise, the economy hasn't sky rocketed with interest nor inflation & it's pretty much where it ought to be.

  3. I'd like to know why Mitch THE BITCH has SEVEN offices and why he has one in London? Why does a state Senator need an office in London?!?

  4. There's NO WAY a textbook should cost $200!!! That is insanity! My college books were about $70 a pop for hard sciences. Still a lot to spend hundreds a semester on books and that was 20 years ago.

  5. Black people need to appeal the 1968 Ocean Hill/Brownfield decision.. here the jew defected black people in teaching their own children . this is why 80% of teachers in the US are white! yet white, with some black people agreeing that its the parents fault that their children are not learning.. white teacher cannot teach black children anything.. due to culture differences and the instituion of slavery or the Holocust. they have no real vested interested in black children

  6. Squeezing the working class so hard while giving tax breaks what did the Elites expect? Once all the teachers, students and their parents goes on strike the Govt will have the population on strike. Karma is a bitch.

  7. As a Canadian, I wish I could be there to support the PEOPLE of the US. You no longer have governments for the people and deserve better. It is time for a national strike to show the corporate leeches and their government lap dogs that it is the PEOPLE that make it possible for the elites to enjoy the lives they have, but it is their responsibility to GIVE BACK for the common good of the nation as a whole.

  8. Looks like Oklahoma is following the same investment strategy as West Virginia. Once the state’s natural resources are gone and industrial diversification is ignored you’re left with an impoverished economy destined for Federal aid life support.

  9. What is happening to our Education System is that the Politicians care MORE about the Wealthy & their TAX BREAKS, then they do about Educating our Children. What I have learned is that all the CUTS they make to Education and State Worker's is SOME of those Cuts go into the Politician's SALARIES, PENSIONS & PERKS!

    OK Gov. Mary Fallon has INCREASED her Pension Account to MORE then her CURRENT SALARY, all while the Teacher's have lost in Salary, Pensions and Healthcare! What boggles my mind is that HOW CAN A POLITICIAN GET MORE then our Teacher's whose been educating our Children for DECADES, in their Pension and Healthcare Accounts! THIS IS INSANE & BACKWARDS! This is what our long term Teacher's SHOULD be receiving! Just think, these Politicians GET THESE LIFETIME TAXPAYER'S BENEFITS, AFTER SERVING FOR ONLY TWO (2) TERMS! Where is the FAIRNESS in this?????

    No way should ANY Politician received MORE BENEFITS then our Teacher's and Firefighter's! Our Police are just as CORRUPT as our Politicians, because they just literally TAKE WHAT THEY WANT from citizens they arrest and kill!

  10. I support those teachers speaking up for themselves. Both parties have allowed our schools to be underfunded and our teachers to be underpaid in order to serve their rich donors and corporate lobbist.

  11. Tablets! If these state governments can't afford text books how are these state governments going to afford tablets?

  12. We Need to fully fund our public schools first. Our public school systems are in great need of so many necessary things ( text books, more teachers for smaller class sizes, school food programs,ect. We don't need to cut our public schools to provide for charter schools. Strengthen what we have.

  13. Dear Oklahoma Teachers,
    7.1 BILLION DOLLARS has been paid into the state of Oklahoma from all the tribes in Oklahoma that have class lll gaming Compact with the… State since 2005. This money is supposed to be for education, we the tribes get audited every single year to ensure the State is receiving every cent for class lll gaming, if there are findings the state will fine the tribe. My question is Where has all of this money gone, who is auditing the State of Oklahoma for this Gaming Compact money from the tribes??? Teachers ask the Governor where did this 7.1 BILLION dollars go to? ?? The Compact expires 2020, this is where tribal leaderships should come together to negotiate  a stronger Compact that can allocate money to all school districts and communities for education funding, also have a audit performed on that State Compact gaming money to ensure the tribes and school communities the revenue from the tribal casinos class lll games given to the state is accounted for by a actual paper trail….Right now there is no accountability or audit for the 7.1 BILLION DOLLARS, teachers of education please address at your State Capital!!! I stand with you, I’m a former tribal leader, a current Compliance Officer for a casino, see the Oklahoma Gaming Indian Association (OIGA) web page, see the report for revenues to the State of Oklahoma….. Please share, teachers should know this important number and information
    Thank you
    Written by Sonya Nevaquaya

    for now, forget opiods and poisoned water and terrible health care…

  15. Why didn't the state lottery solve Oklahoma's education funding problems? by Gene Perry OK policy.org
    In the big picture, the lottery is a small funding source that doesn’t come close to covering our responsibility to pay for the education of young Oklahomans. This year, lawmakers extended a tax break for horizontal drilling that cost 3.6 times more than the lottery collects for education. The year before, they approved income tax cuts projected to cost 3.4 times more than the lottery brings in. The lottery grows state revenue by inches, while lawmakers have been pruning off yards.

  16. It shouldn't be just teachers out there protesting the education system, where are the parents who want their kids properly educated.

  17. When will people realize they should get their children out of the public school system that is obviously so unreliable? Falling scores !!! Rising costs !!! Public schools are the distribution centers for psychotropic drugs, which cause so many shootings. Get our kids out of public schools. Then these whining teachers can go get a real job, instead of being government leaches on taxpayers, not producing anything.

    Note to the school boards – Now that you're rid of the teachers, who consider themselves on strike ( I consider they simply quit their jobs ), you can sell the schools to private interests, the counties can cut taxes drastically, enabling parents to make REAL choices in where to send their kids for their education. Then the private schools can hire teachers that sincerely care about their students, instead of government workers who bellyache for more money, but do such a lousy job of teaching.

  18. The current federal admin. Dosent give a damn about schools or teachers shootings or ANY social programs. I'm fact they want to dismantle all social programs and will be coming after your entitlements. It's the way our country used to be like at it's foundation. Except!!!! Taxes. We used to not pay taxes we had levies to pay for these social programs. Taxes are the problem. You pay Taxes for this reason. A standing army and subsidies for the corporations and entitlements. Large poritions go to Medicaid and Medicare but an obscene amount goes towards over 900 world wide military bases no other country in the world does that. Especially a military increase during peace time. An equally large perportion goes towards corporate tax wright offs. Or corporate welfare. Screw your welfare the corporations need your money to stay in business. Because they pay their ceo's a grotesque amount to steal your wages. The ones they could have given you if they took 10 million dollars less on the 128 million dollar bonus they give themselves. At the end of the day it's our money and it's how were spending it that's the issue. Worse the government in its fiscal irresponsibility and criminal mismanagement have managed to bankrupt the country by overspending for the last 50 years and increasing our debt to 22 trillion and rising. So hate to say it the administrations knows were due for a serious crash. There rushing to steal every dollar they can fuck the schools the environment the poor immigrants fuck us all as they take our money and fly off to private resorts guarded compounds private islands to watch out country heat up and burn. Unless we as a country are willing to in mass demand a correction by quit voting for Thebes in the Republican and Democratic party we will Get the same thieves over and over. All the issues you think are important are not. There's one issue. Who pays your bill. If the person you voted for in the last election takes corporate money or a super Pac money there a back stabbing crook who will do what he's paid to do. They might throw a social program in there to appease you for re-election sake. But in the end the things that matter like entitlements taxes environment jobs schools liveable wages immigration. They will fuck you. Since the Clintons where citizens United was passed. Democrats have turned into republicans and the republicans turned into downright open crooks. Their policy is the same as the British east India trading company. Do nothing improve nothing take all you can steal. Suppress the population. . . Wake up America. Time to get pissed and forgot sake quit buying corporate manufactured shit. Support mom and pop stores. Start your own take thier cash flow away. The shit you buy didn't support your job or our workers. They allowed ceo's to send your job somewhere to exploit workers even more cheaply than you.

  19. This is how the REVOLUTION starts! You all know teachers aren't the only ones being fucked in this country. It's time for a UNITED STATES GENERAL STRIKE! The whole fucking country.

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