It began as a teachers’ walkout. Now it’s become a march.
More than 100 people, including teachers, parents and their supporters, began a 110-mile march across northeast Oklahoma Wednesday morning to call for more funding for the state’s schools.
The marchers plan to walk from Tulsa to Oklahoma City, the state capital, to join thousands of teachers who have been protesting all week for higher pay and more resources, such as new textbooks.
“This whole thing is for our kids, our students. If we’re willing to walk this long and this far, what is the Oklahoma legislation willing to do for our kids?” said Heather Cody, a third-grade teacher at Mayo Demonstration School in Tulsa.
“We’re willing to this for our kids and we want them to step up to the plate, too.”
Cody said she is organizing meals and sleeping areas for marchers. The group is expected to reach Oklahoma City on April 10, meaning they’ll need to average about 16 miles each day.
Aerial video showed marchers, many wearing backpacks, walking in a long, ragged column Wednesday morning through suburban Tulsa. A few carried signs.
Oklahoma’s public schools are at the center of a fierce battle over funding. Hundreds of Oklahoma teachers filled the state Capitol for a second day Tuesday, demanding an additional $150 million in school funding and increased raises for themselves and support staff. Their walkout came days after the state approved some raises and school funding – but only a fraction of what the teachers’ union demanded.
Some teachers took to social media this week to show dilapidated classrooms and crumbling textbooks.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a $2.9 billion school-funding bill Tuesday, which she called a 19.7% increase over current funding levels. In an interview with CBS News, Fallin said the actions of the striking teachers were like “a teenager wanting a better car.”
The state teachers’ union sees it differently.
“This isn’t just about teacher salaries,” said David DuVall, executive director of the Oklahoma Education Association. “This is about funding our schools for our students.”
The Oklahoma protesters join teachers from Kentucky, Arizona and other states who have been fighting for better pay, education funding and working conditions. In West Virginia, teachers got a pay raise last month after going on an unprecedented nine-day strike.