Oklahoma’s Republican governor just insulted her state’s teachers, and it backfired in spectacular fashion

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Inspired by the victory that teachers’ unions just won with their statewide strike in West Virginia, teachers in Oklahoma are following suit in an effort to get the raises that they deserve.

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Oklahoman teachers haven’t had any kind of meaningful raise in over a decade; their pay is one of the lowest in the nation, averaging out to around $42,000 a year. Years of Republican austerity politics and tax cuts for oil companies have left the state’s school system in ruins; 91 school districts can only afford to hold classes four days a week as their teachers flee to other states or are stolen away by better paying jobs at Wal-Mart.

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Yesterday, Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill to raise salaries by $6,100 and $50 million for educational funding last week – but didn’t hold back in sharing her disgust at having to pay for the educators of her children to earn a decent living, complaining that they were like “a teenager wanting a better car.” 

Infuriated by that remark and by her refusal to give the teachers what they wanted – a $10,000 raise and $200 million for the school system – Oklahoma’s teachers went on strike and occupied the state capitol building today, flooding the building with their supporters.

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36,000 people showed up in solidarity. 

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The teachers are understandably furious with the appalling disrespect that their governor showed them.

“I didn’t go into [teaching] for money or anything like that, but I just didn’t think that our legislature would hate us this much. I just feel like in the 19 years I’ve been teaching, that the Oklahoma government has systematically just cut and cut and cut and given us no respect. We’re almost a hated profession in this state” said striking teacher Stephani Barger to ThinkProgress.

It’s far past time that our state governments began to value our nation’s children and the people who will guide their journeys into adulthood – and far past time the servants of the oil companies and far-right wing austerity extremists were reminded that the power of American labor is not to be trifled with.

 

Colin Taylor

Managing Editor

Colin Taylor is the managing editor of the Washington Press. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice, equality, and universal health care in America.

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