Thousands of teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky walked out of class Monday and marched to their state capitols — demanding higher wages and more funding — after years of paying out of their own pockets for school supplies.
“We have no choice but to be here,” explained Jeffrey Peeno, a Kentucky art teacher who donned a Guy Fawkes mask and carried a sign saying, “Vote for Vendetta.”
“We have to represent what we do,” he told the Lexington Herald-Leader.
More than 30,000 educators went on strike Monday and headed to their state capitols in an attempt to turn local lawmakers on to their cause.
They were following in the footsteps of teachers in West Virginia, who walked out of class last month and were able to win a pay raise.
“We’ve had teachers leaving for years, and now it’s getting so bad the kids want to leave, too,” said Oklahoma teacher Brian Davis, who spoke to CBS News and said he earns less than $42,000.
“You’ve worked 20 years. What do you tell teachers who are just starting?” he asked. “I don’t know what to tell them.”
Kentucky teacher Irma Jones said she walked out Monday in support of her students, many of whom are forced to put up with terrible conditions due to the dire need for school funding.
“I didn’t get in this for the pension, I got into it to teach kids,” she told the Herald-Leader.
The demonstrations came just days after Republican lawmakers in Kentucky attached a revised pension plan to a local sewage bill in a move that angered many throughout the state.
“When they pass this with the sewage bill, it tells us exactly what we need to know about what they think of us,” Peeno said.
If signed into law, the legislation would raise the lifetime work years for Kentucky teachers and put them into a new cash-balance plan instead of a traditional pension.
“For too long it’s been where we kind of sat back and let things happen — and our kids are suffering,” a speaker said Monday at a teacher rally in the Bluegrass State. “So for that so we need to stand up for them.”
While Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin did sign legislation last week — granting teachers pay raises of more than $6,000, or roughly 15 to 18 percent — many felt it wasn’t enough.
“If I didn’t have a second job, I’d be on food stamps,” said third-grade educator Rae Lovelace, who spoke to the Associated Press.
“I have to work that second job because I’m a single mom with a teenage daughter,” she said.
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