As Oklahoma Teachers' Strike Enters Second Week, Education Supporters Pack State Capitol to Capacity

Teachers and supporters packed the Oklahoma State Capitol on Monday, on the sixth day of a protest in which teachers are demanding education funding after years of cuts. (Photo: @AaronBrilbeck9/Twitter)

As Oklahoma Teachers' Strike Enters Second Week, Education Supporters Pack State Capitol to Capacity

"We aren't going to shut up, we aren't done...We are ready to fight for our kids for the long haul."

On the sixth day of a teachers' strike that has closed 66 school districts across Oklahoma, education supporters denounced comments from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who spoke for the first time of the protest late last week--only to criticize the teachers who are demanding more support for schools.

"I think we need to stay focused on what's right for kids. And I hope that adults would keep adult disagreements and disputes in a separate place, and serve the students that are there to be served," said DeVos, according to the Dallas Morning News, provoking angry responses on social media.

Teachers went on strike last week after lawmakers passed a funding package that offered only about $50 million for schools, where students have grappled with outdated, crumbling textbooks and shortened weeks, and many teachers have been forced to pay for school supplies out-of-pocket for years--even as they're paid some of the lowest education wages in the country.

The teachers want $10,000 raises rather than the $6,100 raises they were offered by legislators, and a $200 million funding package for schools--following cuts since 2008 that have amounted to a 27 percent slash in Oklahoma's education spending.

On Monday, education supporters returned to the State Capitol building in Oklahoma City to demand that Gov. Mary Fallin sign two tax bills--both of which were passed by the State Senate last Friday at the urging of teachers and would offer an expected $40 million boost to schools. Teachers are also demanding the governor veto the repeal of a hotel and motel tax bill, a measure which would provide another $50 million to education.

"We need lawmakers to make a long-term investment in our children's future," the Oklahoma Education Association, the state's largest teacher's union, said on Monday.

The ABC affiliate News Channel 9 reported that the Capitol building was packed to capacity with supporters Monday morning.

Teachers and supporters were also marching from a number of cities to the Capitol, with some walking more than 100 miles and arriving Monday. Some estimates put the number of marchers in the thousands.

"We aren't going to shut up, we aren't done, this movement has gelled us together," Madeline Jacobsen, a third-grade teacher from Tulsa, told the Guardian. "We are ready to fight for our kids for the long haul. We have power together."

The strike has amassed supporters from other fields as well. On Monday, more than 100 women marched from the Oklahoma Bar Association to the Capitol, with a group of attorneys leading the way.

"The current situation is not sustainable," Sarah Curtiss, head of Girl Attorney, a group that joined the march, told CNN. "It's not good for the kids, it's not good for the teachers, and it's not good for the state. We are really wanting to support other professionals in our state who have been brave enough to walk out and stay out."

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