Teachers and public service workers in Oklahoma, inspired by their colleagues in West Virginia, went on strike April 2 to take a stand for themselves and their students.
Over the last decade, education funding in the state decreased by 30%. This reduction has led to deplorable conditions in schools, a severe cut in classes offered, a shortage of textbooks and other materials, and teachers not receiving a pay increase for ten years (their salaries ranked 49th in the country). Thousands of teachers and education workers rallied in front of the State Capitol in Oklahoma City during the strike. As in West Virginia, students and parents were firmly behind the workers in their fight for the future of education in their state.
APWU Oklahoma Postal Worker Union (OPWU) members joined the strikers outside the State Capitol in Oklahoma City on April 10. At a tent set up outside the State Capitol building, APWU members distributed 600 bottles of water, 400 granola bars, 60 boxes of pizza and over 2,500 stickers to teachers and their allies.
“The teachers also enjoyed the more than 300 PayDay candy bars we handed out and hope they will soon see a ‘PayDay’ for themselves, their students, and our education system,” OPWU President Ashley Cargill said. “It was an amazing experience and it was heartwarming to be able to support our teachers, as well as show our solidarity and encourage them through this difficult time,” she added. “We will not give up in this fight and we will continue to be there for them however we can.”
At the end of the nine-day strike, teachers walked away with their heads held high. Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill that increased revenue for education by $450 million, funded by the first major tax hike in the state in nearly 30 years. It also secured a pay raise of $6,100 on average for teachers and $1,250 for school professionals. Education workers plan to continue their fight at the polls, to secure the additional $150 million for education the strikers wanted.