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'We're Still Here': Oklahoma Teachers Show No Sign of Ending Strike Without Sufficient Funding

'We're Still Here': Oklahoma Teachers Show No Sign of Ending Strike Without Sufficient Funding

Julia Conley, staff writer

On the fourth day of a teachers' strike which has kept hundreds of thousands of students out of school this week, educators from across Oklahoma warned lawmakers that they have no plans to end the walkout until the State House and Senate approve a funding increase for schools—to make up for a decade in which the state cut spending by 14 percent per child and teachers saw

So proud of these teachers. You’re setting an example you’re students will never forget. Stay strong, and stay together, and you will win.


More power to 'em. But do realize most everyone in this country has suffered from low or falling wages. Teachers in the US are some of the best paid albeit with mediocre results.

"The most recent PISA results, from 2015, placed the U.S. an unimpressive 38th out of 71 countries in math and 24th in science. "

Teacher’s pay should be in line with the salaries of their respective states. For example, in Alaska, the average public school, teacher’s salary is $71,000-$77,000/year. High school teachers earn more than, on average $82,000/year. (remember this is for nine months of the year). Per CNN (Alaska): “Salaries typically start from $52,580 and go up to $99,400.”

There’s got to be a good deal of taxpayers paying taxes to pay teachers (or anyone on a government salary) more. And as incomes have become stagnant and/or decreased, and states’ costs have increased, the money will need to be raised somewhere. In most states, paying teachers more means raising property taxes, which translates into higher rents and mortgage payments.

In Finland, usually at the top for education, school teachers earn less than $50,000 a year and are required to have obtained a master’s degree to teach. The school day is shorter, there is rarely, if ever, any homework. Children are fed two hot meals a day (breakfast and lunch), thus their parents are relieved from this duty and it ensures each child has a balanced diet to aid in their growth and development.

Private schools are very rare. If a child is not performing at the level of their classmates they are tutored until they catch up, however long that may take. Heathcare is taken care of (w/parents consent) at school. Healthcare is all-inclusive, that includes dental, vision, etc and is covered by the government, i.e. universal, cradle to the grave. Higher education (college, vocational school) is covered by the government, students are encouraged to attend and receive a stipend for living expenses while in college.

In other words, we can throw more money at it, but it doesn’t mean it will be better. This seems to be the problem with “progress” in the US. I’m by no means saying that teachers don’t deserve more, some states are so poor (low income) that teachers salaries reflect that. Finding a way to pay them more would not hurt, but I do believe there should be some accountability. Public schools are suffering from neglect. Charter, private and religious schools are likely doing a better job at teaching than public schools today. The time to have fixed this was a long time ago.

180 degrees from the way “domestic” programs (including education) are funded, each year US military funding is increased with little if any discussion and no debate. Its hard to call it a military budget when Congress funds so much military spending “off budget”. Anybody questioning military spending is deemed a heretic.

Objective research to date has proven that there is little difference between the quality of public schools and charter schools. There is a wide range of quality within both systems. You would think that charters would perform as well as private schools (which include religious schools) since they have the advantage of being able to cherry pick their student body the way private schools do.

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Lynn1, you bring up the example of Finland but come to exactly the wrong conclusion, which is “we can throw more money at it, but it doesn’t mean it will be better.”

You cite the Finnish teacher’s salary of $50,000 as less than (Alaska’s) average teacher wage but also say the government provides universal health care, college students get stipends, extra tutoring for students who need it, student nutritional support, etc. The teacher benefits from the health insurance, et al. that would otherwise come out of his/her salary in the U.S. The students (and their parents) benefit. The Finnish government pays for all those programs, that is, they have thrown money at quality-of-life concerns that affect education and have been very effective.

The Finnish people have decided they want their taxes to go to education, nutrition, health care along with all the other things a nation must have to function… Finland did throw money at education in many different ways and by your admission they rate among the highest in educational results.

You say “public schools are suffering from neglect.” Then let’s give them some attention and funding! Pay teachers as if the education of our children is a priority. Give every student the textbooks required for their work.

The problems this nation has need critical thinking from everybody who is able, not boiler-plate that reaches all the wrong conclusions.


Lynn1-- I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, and you seem to praise and damn at the same time.
Teachers are the lowest paid people in a profession that demands the most from them. All teachers must get a bachelor’s degree and, in some states, a master’s as well. In states that only require a bachelor’s one still does two years worth of work in order to qualify to teach. Now to break it down further: 1) Teachers need to pay for their university education in teaching, which, as you know, is not cheap in America. 2) One is then required to “student teach” under the guidance of a master teacher for a semester, for which one is not paid. In fact, one is paying for the privilege of teaching, since one is still paying for one’s education while teaching, not to mention that one is also making lesson plans, and in some cases, working a full time job in order to pay for university. 3) One must pass tests in order to demonstrate mastery in the subjects one wants to teach. 4) Every teacher must work for two years to prove their competence before becoming tenured. (It is a method of weeding out those who are not very good at the job). 5) Teachers do not work 9 months a year; they teach 10 months; the they have “off” in the summer, however, are not paid. (Teachers do not have paid vacations such as you might enjoy). Please note that I said that they “do not work 9 months a year; they teach 10 months”, that is because they work 12 months a year. Summers are often used to meet with colleagues to plan next year’s curriculum; attend seminars that can’t be attended during the year and otherwise work on or in their classrooms preparing for next year’s students as, often happens, their district has decided they need to teach a different grade or in a different school in the district or the district has adopted some shiny new curriculum.
As to charter and private and religious schools: They “are [not] likely doing better job”. Studies have found that they do a poorer job of teaching than the public schools; charters in particular. Charter schools, by the way, are often for profit entities using public land and money to run, instead of their own money. (Perhaps this might be one reason public schools are so underfunded)? This idea that public schools are doing a terrible job is from Reagan and the lie he kept perpetuating during his administration.
As for “throwing money” at it" is concerned: how come we never have any problem throwing money at the Pentagon? They haven’t gotten any better. No one is “throwing” money at public education; they’re always cutting the budgets!
To “fix” public education, it will be necessary stop those who know absolutely nothing about pedagogy, (teaching), from making policies about it. The problem with public education is that idiots, (probably from private or charter schools), are the ones interfering with it, and trying to impose the “free market” system upon it. Education is not a commodity but an on-going dynamic. Not something endured for 12 years and then off to some job.

P.S. Just for the record:
Charter, private and religious schools are under no obligation to take students with disabilities, behavior issues or any other learning issue; i.e. any student who will bring their scores down. Public schools must teach everyone. That’s what you do in a democracy.

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Good luck getting teachers (or anyone else) agreeing to cap their salaries at $50k so everyone can have universal healthcare, college stipends, extra tutoring, and 2x school meals/day, etc.

And by the way, we do all that to some degree or another: Obama-Trumpcare subsidies, Medicaid, college assistance (Pell grants, etc), tutoring (public ed), free lunches; just way more inefficiently than all semi-socialized countries do. In the US these programs are seen as some sort of welfare and therefore stigmatized. So why is our way so inefficient? One word: Inequality.

Finland’s education system isn’t better because they’ve “throw money” at it. It’s likely due to a culture that respects and expects the best from their teachers. Finland’s education system is one of the best in the world. Ours is mediocre.

BTW some of you are reading more into my post. I’m by no means promoting low pay for teachers. Their states must have the resources to pay them more. Alaska’s teachers salaries are due to high oil revenues. The state can afford to pay well. High oil revenues also translates into each resident receiving a check from the state every year, for 2017 each resident received more than $2,000 (for a household of five, that’s $10,000+). Obviously that’s gonna change when the oil revenues dry up.

I certainly do not know where you got this. My telling some poster “good for him” when he wrote he was benefiting from Trump’s tax cuts riled up some. Is he supposed to be condemned if he received some relief from Trump’s tax cuts? I don’t know or care what he earns. It was implied that it was minor.

The problem with Trump’s tax cuts is that they rewarded those with the most. They were regressive. The highest “reward” went to those who needed relief the least. That’s the problem with Trump’s tax cuts.

I did not say anything about capping teacher pay. And you said nothing to explain the illogical conclusions of your Finnish example on education.

You cite all the programs that Finland has to address quality-of-life issues that affect education such as nutrition, tutoring, universal health care, then pretend they don’t cost anything, that is, no money was thrown at the problem.

You used Alaska as the example of the great pay teachers get when you know Alaska pays a higher wage due to a high cost of living and also their oil money. That is disingenuous to say the least.

You are right that much of the problem is inequality. America has supported public school from the beginning as a way to begin to even the playing ground. Why are so many states unwilling to adequately finance their public schools?

You put a lot of information out, but then you do not pull it apart to analyze it. As I said before, our nation’s problems need critical thinking skills from everyone who is able. I definitely think you are able. Give it a try.

Actually, no we didn’t. In 2017 the Alaska PFD was capped at $1100 by the Alaska legislature instead of $2350. The oil revenue has dropped dramatically and Alaska finances are in disarray as the Republicans are trying to cut their way to a balanced budget instead of re-instating the old state income tax. They are also using money that should be going to the dividend to finance government now that they have used up all the oil reserve surpluses that were stored away. Looks like the 2018 dividend which should have been $2700 will be $1600 so they can steal more from the PFD. 2015 was the last year we got a full dividend.

BTW, the PFD is the reason that since its inception Alaska has had the least economic inequality of any of the 50 states. When you go on about a family of 5 getting $10k, you should also note that out in the villages, a gallon of milk can cost $10 or more and the jobs are scarce.

Interesting. The article I read said is was over $2,000 in 2017. I’m not knocking it–no other state does anything like it. It’s about the most socialist thing that the entire country does – share oil tax revenues with citizens. Can’t get more Marxist than that (for the nitpickers, of course you can). Isn’t Alaska a republican state?

Hey you Alaskans do better when the rest of us pay more for gas, eh? I am 110% for anything that reduces economic inequality.

Put on your critical thinking cap and you might then understand, it is neither all good nor all bad.

However, the bottom line is Finland has a much better public education system, w/better results than the US. Finland’s public school teachers earn less than US public school teachers. Now, a critical thinker can deduce from that that more pay does not translate into better results.

The teachers in OK were offered $500 more per month ($6,100/yr “largest teacher pay raise in the history of the state”) after OK raised taxes to pay for it. They declined, demanded more and went on strike. That’s their prerogative, but heck, we all know how that sometimes turns out.

What they’re demanding is $10,000 per year, for the next 3 years. That’s a $30,000 increase in three years. If the state can pay it, then perhaps it should be considered.

I’ve obviously set some of you off and have given the wrong impression. Some private schools, probably the majority, are excellent. Some charter schools may be succeeding, but many are not. Charters have been ripe for fraud and abuse. Several in my state have closed their doors due to someone misappropriating or embezzling the funding. Teachers have been leaving public schools to create charters.

When I was in public school the Catholic schools did a very good job of educating children. Maybe it’s different today. I know others that moved their children from public schools to private Christian schools (sans the preaching) and they did receive an excellent education. For instance, most all of my friends that put their children into private schools went on to college. (many had no prior interest) My niece having little interest in college was put into a (high cost) non-religious private school for the last four years and is today a doctor.

This is neither black nor white. Unfortunately our public school system, due to many factors, but mostly poor ratings and neglect, left open the door for charters, more private and other forms of education. I fully support public schools. I believe they should be standardized across the country, meaning the same education for all children, rich, poor or in between. In fact, I believe all education should be public (ie, free to all) and lifelong.

One standard teacher-prep program for all teachers would be a good start:

In the United States, for example, there are more than 1,500 different teacher-preparation programs. The range in quality is wide. In Singapore and Finland only one academically rigorous teacher education program is available for those who desire to become teachers. Likewise, neither Canada nor South Korea has fast-track options into teaching, such as Teach for America or Teach First in Europe. Teacher quality in high-performing countries is a result of careful quality control at entry into teaching rather than measuring teacher effectiveness in service.

We have the highest gasoline costs in the country after Hawaii and California, so whatever you are paying…

Are you seem to be saying, Lynn, that the only relevant expense going into Finnish education is teacher salaries, but the tutoring, nutritional support, etc. costs nothing? Do see that a salary in Finland might reflect the cost of living that includes a huge decrease in medical insurance and direct medical expenses because Finland has universal healthcare?

BTW, the OK strike goes on because they want much needed improvements in school facilities, textbooks for all students and to not have to pay out out of their own pockets for (so called publicly funded) schools.

Yeah, those teachers are really selfish. /s