Striking Oklahoma teachers storm & occupy state capitol over pay and funding (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Striking Oklahoma teachers storm & occupy state capitol over pay and funding (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
Thousands of Oklahoma teachers stormed the state capitol and refused to budge when confronted by authorities about their loud chants. The protest appears to be part of a statewide strike over teacher pay and school funding.

Over 30,000 teachers walked out of schools across Oklahoma on Monday and Tuesday, protesting what they say are teacher shortages, low salaries and under-resourced public schools.

Teachers at the rally on Tuesday held signs proclaiming "Let's Start Funding" and "Fund our Future."

Republican Governor Mary Fallin agreed last week to give teachers an average raise of $6,000 per year, or 16 percent. But this has done little to quell the discontent of teachers in the solid-red state. The teachers unions are demanding $10,000 a-year per teacher, higher pay for support staff and $200 million in education funding over the next three years. 

Oklahoma teacher salaries are among the lowest in the country,  ranking at 49th, according to the National Education Association.

If I didn’t have a second job, I’d be on food stamps,” Rae Lovelace, a third-grade teacher and single mother in northwest Oklahoma, told USA Today.

In a statement released on Monday, Governor Fallin defended her offer to teachers, which she described as “the largest teacher pay raise in state history”. She added that Oklahoma is “only able to do what our budget allows”. 

Recent teacher strikes have affected only Republican-controlled states thus far. Public education unions are traditionally a bastion of the Democratic party.

Oklahoma City Public Schools announced that schools will remain shut on Wednesday as protests and negotiations with legislators carry on.

The protests in Oklahoma come as Kentucky teachers also staged mass walkouts over a pensions dispute. Teachers in both states have been encouraged by the success of a nine-day teacher strike in West Virginia in March. Following the the state’s biggest teachers’ strike in 30 years, teachers and state employees won a five percent pay increase. 

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