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'We're not leaving!' Oklahoma teachers in second day of protests

From Reuters - April 3, 2018

TULSA, Okla./OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Oklahoma teachers walked out of classes for a second straight day on Tuesday, closing schools in the states two biggest cities, as they demanded higher state spending on public education in the latest U.S. labor action by educators.

Hundreds of teachers crowded into the state capital,Oklahoma City, chanting fund our schools and were not leaving as they lobbied lawmakers to pass a tax package that would raise another $200 million for the state school budget. Teachers, parents and students staged sympathy rallies around the state.

The protests reflected rising discontent after years of sluggish or declining public school spending in Oklahoma, which ranked 47th among the 50 U.S. states in per-student expenditure, and 48th in average teacher salaries in 2016, according to the National Education Association.

The Oklahoman newspaper listed about 70 schools or districts that were shuttered on Tuesday. The walkouts follow a two-week job action in West Virginia that led lawmakers last month to vote to raise teachers pay. Educators in Kentucky also staged walkouts against years of stagnant or reduced budgets by a Republican-controlled legislature and most returned to their classrooms or scheduled spring break holidays on Tuesday.

Teachers in Arizona have threatened similar job actions.

Frederick Smitherman, 48, who teaches eighth grade at Will Rogers Early Junior High School in Tulsa, joined teachers, parents and students in a satellite protest on Tuesday.

We all pay taxes and expect our legislators to do what we voted them in to do, Smitherman said. What else are teachers supposed to do besides yell and scream? We can vote them out but voting one out just brings a bad one in instead. My hope is that this doesnt fall on deaf ears.

Mondays walkout by up to 30,000 educators in Oklahoma forced the cancellation of classes for some 500,000 of the states 700,000 public school students, according to teachers union officials, who estimated that a similar number of teachers took part in Tuesdays action.

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