Hundreds Of Schools Closed As Teachers Rally In Oklahoma, Kentucky
OKLAHOMA CITY - Hundreds of schools were closed Monday morning in Oklahoma and Kentucky while thousands of teachers rallied at their state capitols, CBS News correspondent Omar Villafranca reports. They're demanding higher pay and increased school funding.
The scheduled strikes follow a growing trend of teacher walkouts across the country. Up to 30,000 people were expected to attend Monday's walkout.
In Oklahoma City, legislators approved a raise that teachers say is too small.
Art teacher Laurissa Kovacs says her kids aren't even getting the basics at Puterbaugh Middle School.
"The chairs are in awful condition," Kovacs told Villafranca. "They're broken and they literally hurt the kids to sit down. If you look through the stacks, you can just see how many of the broken areas and cracks that will pinch you and jagged tops."
Kovacs says she's had to bring in folding chairs from home to give her students a proper place to sit. She can't take the frustration any longer.
"As many of us as possible, we're gonna go to the Capitol and we will rally," she said. "And several of us are going to stay at the Capitol as long as it takes."
On Monday, CBS affiliate KWTV reported that Oklahoma public schools had already been cancelled for Tuesday:
Oklahoma teachers, who are among the nation's lowest paid, have been threatening for weeks to walk out on Monday.
Demands made by the state's largest teacher's union include increasing school funding by $200 million over three years and raising teachers' wages by $10,000.
Legislation signed by Gov. Mary Fallin last week, which increases teacher pay by an average of about $6,100, or 15 to 18 percent, wasn't enough to avert a walkout. The measure increased taxes on cigarettes, fuel and oil, and gas production to provide the raises.
Oklahoma isn't the only state struggling with teacher pay. In West Virginia, it took nine days before a teacher's strike there forced the governor to award a 5 percent pay hike. Teachers in Arizona are now considering a strike over their demands for a 20 percent salary increase. And in Kentucky, educators are fighting legislation that they say would disrupt their pension plans.
Meanwhile, thousands of teachers gathered Monday in Frankfort to put the political heat on Kentucky lawmakers. Teachers and other school employees filled the streets outside the Kentucky Education Association office. They held signs and prepared to raise their voices as lawmakers returned to the Capitol to possibly vote on a new two-year state budget. The group plans to march to the Capitol.
Stephanie Winkler is president of the Kentucky Education Association, which is the largest teacher's union in the state.
"What you're seeing happen across the nation is a fight for public education," Winkler told Villafranca. "Public education in Kentucky is right now in limbo. And we want to make sure that our students get everything that they need."
According to Villafranca, only three school districts were open in Kentucky on Monday. Many schools there are on spring break.
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