During their ongoing strike for increased funding for education and pay raises, Oklahoma teachers and other school staff seized every floor of the state capitol building on Tuesday.
Those present in the capitol building during the second day of organized strikes on Tuesday vowed not to leave until Oklahoma’s Republican-controlled legislature passes more funding for school resources, ABC News reported.
The burgeoning crowd of protesters — estimated at 36,000 people — prompted capitol security to occasionally declare the building at capacity and temporarily prevent additional demonstrators from entering.
— Ben Felder (@benfelder_okc) April 3, 2018
Wednesday marked the third day of the strike, with Oklahoma public schools remaining closed due to staff shortages.
The Oklahoma protest followed the Thursday signing of legislation by Republican Governor Mary Fallin, which granted teachers annual pay raises averaging $6,100, the largest in state history. A 2017 report by the National Education Association indicated that Oklahoma teachers had been earning an average of $45,276 annually, among the lowest for educators nationwide.
The teachers union called Fallin’s measure “incomplete,” and demanded a $10,000 pay increase, a $5,000 raise for support staff and $220 million in education funding over the next three years.
“You can give me two options: If I would choose a raise, or I would choose school funding. And you better believe I’d pick school funding,” said high school geometry teacher Charis Davenport.
Republican state Rep. Kevin McDugle pledged to vote against any measures to fund public education in light of the behavior of the teachers.
“I’m not voting for another stinking measure when they’re acting the way they’re acting,” McDugle said on Tuesday.
Teachers in Kentucky are also on strike, and Arizona is expecting a similar statewide walkout soon. In February, West Virginia teachers fought to win a five-percent pay raise for teachers.