Hundreds of schools in Oklahoma and Kentucky were forced to remain closed Tuesday as teachers continue to strike for better wages and education funding.
Teachers in Arizona were also rumored to be planning a strike for better pay as well.
Hundreds of educators in Oklahoma walked out Friday after Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation last week granting teacher salary raises of about $6,100, or 15 to 18 percent. Some teachers – who haven’t seen a pay increase in 10 years – felt it was not enough.
Many teachers said they had to work a second or third job to make ends meet.
“If I didn’t have a second job, I’d be on food stamps,” said Rae Lovelace, a single mom and third-grade teacher at Leedey Public Schools in northwest Oklahoma. Lovelace works 30 to 40 hours a week at a second job teaching online courses for a charter school.
The average teacher starting salary for the 2016-2017 school year was $38,617, according to the National Education Association. In comparison, the average starting salaries for Kentucky and Oklahoma were $36,494 and $31,919 respectively.
Larry Cagle, a high school teacher at Thomas Edison Preparatory High School in Tulsa, Okla., was one of the educators who gathered in Oklahoma City to protest.
“We’ve gotten tired of begging for everything,” Cagle told USA Today. “Teachers, students and the community have decided enough is enough.”
Oklahoma closed schools on Monday and Tuesday as teachers continued to protest for better wages.
Meanwhile in Kentucky, teachers and other school employees chanted, “Stop the war on public education,” while at the state capitol building in Frankfort. They also chanted, “We will remember in November” — the time of year when all 100 seats in the Kentucky Senate are up for grabs.
“We’re madder than hornets, and the hornets are swarming today,” said Claudette Green, a retired teacher and principal.
Hundreds of teachers in Kentucky called in sick last week to protest last-minute changes to their pension system.
At the state Capitol on Monday, demonstrators are demanding lawmakers include what protesters consider adequate education funding as legislators work on the state budget.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has not yet signed the bill, but last week tweeted his support, saying public workers owe “a deep debt of gratitude” to lawmakers who voted to pass it.
“We will be here watching every move legislators make,” Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky Education Association, told the Courier-Journal. “If this budget is not in the best interest of public education students and public service, then we will react.”
The teachers said they were inspired by West Virginia educators who went on strike earlier this year until the state’s governor, James Justice, signed a bill that included a 5 percent pay increase.
Thousands of Arizona teachers also rallied in March in front of the Arizona State Capitol building in Phoenix. They were protesting perceived low pay and education funding.