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Thousands of Oklahoma educators rally at Capitol for increased education funding

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Teachers and family members hold signs in front of the Oklahoma State Capitol April 2.

Thousands of teachers from across the state met at the steps of the Oklahoma Capitol April 2 to demand more funding for education.

The walkout took place following Gov. Mary Fallin’s signing of a revenue bill that included tax increases on cigarettes, fuel and a gross production tax to generate more than $400 million to fund teacher raises, approximately $6,000 per teacher.

Despite the teacher raise, educators have vowed to continue the walkout until their demands for increased education funding, support staff raises and state employee raises are answered.

Third-grade teacher Abigail Woodage said she has 28 students in her classroom this year and her colleagues are also working with overcrowded classrooms.

“Educators are fed up that our schools are underfunded. (Legislators) are saying that we have gotten our pay raise — why are we continuing this movement? It is because you are not putting it back into our classrooms,” Woodage said. “We are not just here for us, we are here for our students.”

Emily Virgin, House District 44, said she thinks the walkout and the shear number of people is encouraging.

“We had a big rally in 2014, but it was only for one day and so legislators were able to avoid seeing people for that day and move on with whatever they wanted to do,” Virgin said. “So this being a prolonged effort is really important and the teachers have been great knowing what they ask for.”

Fallin, who was not at the capitol today, said in a press release she appreciates teacher efforts to come discuss issues with legislators and was proud to provide the $6,000 raise, but said other other areas of need must also be considered when considering education funding.

“Just like Oklahoma families, we are only able to do what our budget allows,” Fallin said in the press release. “Significant revenue-raising measures were approved to make this pay raise and additional school funding possible. We must be responsible not to neglect other areas of need in the state such as corrections and health and human services as we continue to consider additional education funding measures. I look forward to continuing to talk with legislative leaders and teachers as we forge a positive pathway forward for education.”

The walkout will continue April 3, as OKC public schools and others have already canceled classes for Tuesday, according to News 9.

“I am here to encourage legislators to fund education to reduce class sizes and get more qualified teachers and stay in Oklahoma,” said Tara Nedrow, a high school teacher from Union High School. “It is not just about a raise, it is about getting per-pupil spending back into the classroom.”

According to the Tulsa World, with the new raise in teacher salary Oklahoma will reside at approximately 28th in the nation for teacher wages, but the spending per-pupil problem has still not been addressed by the state legislature.

”It has been too long," said Deborah Ladd, a teacher from OKCPS."It is not right when most of my paycheck is used for materials in the classroom. Something has to change.” 

News reporter Sierra Rains also contributed to this report. 

News Reporter

Olan Field is a journalism junior at the University of Oklahoma and a news reporter for the OU Daily.

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