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Eight Kentucky school districts — including those in Louisville and Lexington — are closed today as teachers stay home to protest the GOP legislature’s destructive “reforms” of their pension system. Oklahoma teachers are planning to strike on Monday despite winning a $6,100 pay raise. And Arizona teachers rallied at the state capital on Wednesday and are threatening to strike if their demands for major pay raises and restoration of education funding cuts are not met.
As this wave of unrest among teachers spreads nationally, it’s clear it has been inspired by the nine-day strike that won West Virginia teachers (and other state employees) a pay raise earlier this month. But there’s something more fundamental going on than copycat protests. We’re seeing a teacher-led backlash against years, and even decades, of Republican efforts at the state level to cut taxes and starve public investments. This is very clear in Oklahoma, where a quick pay raise the legislature passed this week is deemed by teachers to have missed the larger point:
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“While this is major progress, this investment alone will not undo a decade of neglect. There is still work to do to get this legislature to invest more in our classrooms. And that work will continue Monday, when educators descend on the capitol,” Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said in a Facebook video Wednesday.
The pay-raise bill signed by Governor Mary Fallin yesterday brought in $447 million in new revenues from higher taxes on cigarettes and oil-production facilities. But the teachers are demanding $3.3 billion “to restore millions of dollars in school funding that have been cut in the past decade,” as Vox reports.
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Similarly, in Arizona the teacher protests are not just about teacher pay, though they are among the lowest paid in the country. Their demands are much broader, as...
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