Showdowns over school funding continue in 3 states

Teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky continue to press lawmakers for better pay and conditions, while Arizona’s educators begin weighing a walkout.

Oklahoma’s teacher walkout extended into its ninth day Thursday — the same number of days that West Virginia teachers were on strike last month before Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill giving them a 5% pay raise.

Some school districts such as Tulsa’s and Oklahoma City Public Schools remain closed Thursday, while others moved to welcome students back into the classroom.

Moore Public Schools were to resume classes Thursday, according to CNN affiliate KFOR. In a letter to parents and teachers, the district said classes would start again because students needed to get back to class, and it wasn’t clear lawmakers would accept educators’ demands.

Teachers have converged on the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, pressuring lawmakers to give schools more funding. On Tuesday, teachers from Tulsa completed a 110-mile march to the Capitol, where they rallied together and gave speeches on the front steps.

Like their colleagues across the state, the teachers weren’t satisfied by the recent passage of a bill that gave some additional funding to schools. Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation that provided $50 million in funding, increased teachers’ salaries and gave pay raises to support staff.

But it’s not enough, the teachers say. They want at least $150 million more to replace old textbooks and fund elective courses, on top of higher raises.

Some of the teachers have decided to take matters into their own hands — and run for office.

Dozens of people showed up at 8 a.m. Wednesday to file paperwork and register their candidacies. These included teachers who either wanted to fight for school funding from inside the Legislature, pursue other reforms for Oklahoma’s children or give their students a lesson in democracy.

Kentucky teachers prepare to butt heads with state Legislature …

Teachers in Kentucky are gearing up for a showdown with state lawmakers Friday, days after Gov. Matt Bevin signed a pension reform bill that the teachers’ group, the Kentucky Education Association, strongly opposes.

As a result of the pension reform, new hires will have to enter a hybrid cash-balance plan as opposed to a traditional pension. It also limits new sick days teachers can put toward their retirement.

The teachers’ group sent out a message asking “each school district or citizen that can legally be in Frankfort, to be there” on Friday. Members will pressure lawmakers to override the governor’s vetoes of a budget bill and a revenue bill, both of which are crucial to public education funding, according to Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler.

While the group admits the bills aren’t perfect, teachers must be “united to help protect public education funds at all costs.”

At least one school district, Trimble County Public Schools, has announced it will close schools to allow educators and school personnel to travel to Frankfort. And that number is growing, according to CNN affiliate WLKY, as more school districts cancel Friday classes.

… while Arizona educators get ready to walk out

On Wednesday, Arizona teachers held “walk-ins” before the start of classes, calling for higher salaries. Teachers gathered outside schools, wearing red shirts and carrying signs before walking in to teach their first classes of the day.

It wasn’t clear how many schools participated in the rallies, but the Arizona Educators United coalition had said it hoped teachers at 1,000 schools would take part.

The group has spent weeks calling for the state Legislature to mandate 20% pay raises for teachers in the next school year and wants school funding to return to where it was in 2008. It’s also calling for smaller class sizes — a 23:1 student-to-teacher ratio.

Arizona Educators United organized Wednesday’s rallies, which were just the latest escalation in recent weeks for educators and their allies to voice their frustration.

It started with the group encouraging teachers to wear red to school on Wednesdays, using the hashtag #RedforED in social media posts. But now the group is sending signals that walkouts could be just around the corner.

Arizona Educators United leader Derek Harris said Monday the group was preparing to call for a long-term walkout, according to CNN affiliate KVOA.

“Do not wait anymore,” Harris said, according to the Tucson station. “The time is coming, we need to make this happen and that (means) you’ve got to get things in place.”