Sunday, September 20, 2020
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Okla. teachers may walk out over pay on Monday

Teachers in the state of Oklahoma may follow those in West Virginia and a few other states and observe a statewide teachers’ strike beginning on Monday, April 2, according to a Facebook page with about 60,000 followers that says “the time is now” for a walkout.

Because of budget cuts in the state, which depends in a major way on the oil industry, teachers’ wages have stagnated for over a decade, the Washington Post reports. This has caused teachers to take second or third jobs as grocery store cashiers and Uber drivers or to head to Texas, where salaries for teachers are tens of thousands of dollars per year higher.

The state’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, Shawn Sheehan, packed up and moved to Texas last year, just one year after winning the statewide honor in Oklahoma.

Students complain about high teacher turnover and absence rates. The Post talked to a few students in an abandoned biology class that had lost two teachers so far this year and was being babysat by a hairdresser acting as a sub who had no work assignments for students.

“My grade is high, but still, I want to learn a lot because I do like science,” the paper quoted a 10th grader at Hale High in Tulsa as saying. His frustration with the revolving door was apparent, as he added, “You get comfortable, and they’re gone.”

If teachers do walk out on Monday, most schools seem to have made plans for keeping students involved in any activities that don’t require the presence of certified staff at the school. For example, students at Broken Arrow High School near Tulsa who are concurrently enrolled at a local college still have to go to the college for the classes held there.

“In the event of a suspension of classes due to teacher absences on April 2nd and thereafter, Tulsa Community College and Tulsa Tech will continue with their original schedules as planned,” reports The Pulse, the student news site at Broken Arrow.

The school system will provide transportation for students enrolled in concurrent classes at one of the colleges, but students will be responsible for getting to the high school campus in the first place to catch the bus.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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