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Teachers' struggle escalates in Oklahoma and Kentucky

TEACHERS in Oklahoma stayed on strike for a second day today, saying the government’s emergency pay package passed last week falls short of their demands.

The state’s three largest school districts, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Edmond, all remained shut for the day, though striking teachers arrived in some schools to provide free meals to pupils.

Despite Governor Mary Fallin signing legislation that raised taxes on oil and gas extraction, hospitality and various services to pay for rises of between 15 and 18 per cent for teachers, they say that this does not make up for 10 years without a rise and additional money for education will not make up the funding gap with other states.

“If I didn’t have a second job, I’d be on food stamps,” Leedey Public Schools teacher Rae Lovelace said, supporting unions’ determination to hold out for a $10,000 rise.

Democrat state representative Collin Walke said teachers were right to keep up the pressure.

He believes two pending Bills could raise an extra $100 million each every year, one eliminating tax deductions on capital gains and one expanding licences for Native American casinos.

The strike rumbled on a day after Kentucky teachers walked out and rallied for higher pay and against a new law cutting their pensions.

In what the Kentucky Education Association (KEA) slammed as a “classic bait and switch,” Republican lawmakers swapped a passage on pension cuts from its original Bill to a different one dealing with sewage facilities to ram it through the chamber and wrong-foot opposition.

“No-one, except key leadership in both chambers, was privy to the nearly 300-page Bill that was secretly switched from a waste water bill to a pension reform Bill,” KEA president Stephanie Winkler said.

Governor Matt Bevin has dismissed their concerns, saying teachers have a “thug mentality,” are “selfish and short-sighted” and “want more than [their] fair share.” He declared on Monday that teachers owed legislators “a deep debt of gratitude” for cutting their pensions.

Crowds chanting “stop the war on public education” outside the state capitol pledged to keep resisting.

Retired headteacher Claudette Green said: “We’re madder than hornets and the hornets are swarming today.”

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