By GRACE SMITH
Oklahoma’s teacher walkout in protest of poor state funding of schools started yesterday and shows no sign of slowing down. The teachers, after forming a walkout yesterday that shut down area schools, have now collected in the Oklahoma State Capital and their chanting echoed up and down the rotunda of the building.
The teachers have an allotted budget to travel to the Capitol on school buses for 10 days in protest. They started by presenting a three-pronged demand list to the state that demanded they fill in a $50 million gap left by a repealed hotel tax, allow “ball and dice” gambling to increase state revenue and, most importantly, find additional ways to fund public schools.
Efforts by state Democrats to increase state revenue to about $75 million, which would be directed to the schools, have been blocked and the House of Representatives announced it would be adjourned until the end of Wednesday in interest of the representative’s safety. Many teachers expressed anger over the lack of action, insisting that “there were options on the table, now they just had to hammer the legislators.” The teachers, however, have announced they are in it for the long run.
Despite traditional news media coverage of protest slanting to make them seem violent or unjustified, especially when preformed by minorities, the treatment of the teacher walkout in Oklahoma carries a sort of justice-empowered respect around it. Outlets are careful to detail both sides, including efforts by legislators to propose and pass helpful changes, but it is overwhelmingly in favor of the teachers. However, this is not a shock. The general opinion about teachers is very positive, with the (correct) idea that they work very hard and very diligently for very little.
The public is also very invested in this story as local Oklahoma parents seek the best for their children, and an end to the sudden “vacation” their walkout gave to students. It also has a broader reach- long has the United States education system, especially public schools, been viewed as underfunded, under-supported, and overstretched. This is perhaps a catalyst for the rest of the nation’s teachers to demand better, which may (hopefully) resolve in a complete overhaul of our public school systems.