“I’m 54 years old and my paycheck is $1,980 [a month]. I can’t afford f****** health insurance.”
That’s one of the first things Larry Cagle says on the phone. He is spitting nails. The Tulsa English teacher is one of the leaders of a grassroots organizing group, Oklahoma Teachers United, that they say represents thousands of public school teachers around the state. His group, and both of Oklahoma’s teachers unions, support the walkout and rally happening across the state Monday in support of higher wages and more state revenue.
Teachers are striking even though state legislators passed a pay raise of about $6,000 last week. That vote followed earlier walkouts. The bill, if signed, would bring Oklahoma’s teacher salaries from among the lowest in the nation, to the middle of the pack.
The Oklahoma teachers are not the only ones unhappy.
Teachers in Kentucky are gathering Monday at the state capitol to press for education funding. Many schools there are on spring break, allowing teachers to travel to Frankfort. Schools not on spring break closed.
This wave of teacher-led actions around the country was kicked off when teachers in West Virginia emerged victorious from a nearly two-week strike earlier this month. In Arizona, hundreds of teachers walked out last week, and there have been rumbles as far away as New Mexico and Alaska.
The rally in Kentucky is led by the Kentucky Education Association, the state’s union affiliate. But in many other states, grassroots teachers groups, like Larry Cagle’s group in Oklahoma, have taken the lead — often using social media to organize.