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US Oklahoma teachers might follow West Virginia in strike, walk outs

10:16  05 march  2018
10:16  05 march  2018 Source:   reuters.com

Before they went on strike, West Virginia teachers packed bags to make sure kids didn't go hungry

  Before they went on strike, West Virginia teachers packed bags to make sure kids didn't go hungry Teachers in West Virginia are striking for higher wages and better benefits, but not at the expense of hungry students. In West Virginia almost one in four children are in poverty. For many of them, free or reduced-price school breakfasts and lunches are their main meals of the day. Some schools even run Friday pantry programs to feed students through the weekend. The teachers' strike closed all the state's public schools beginning last week. But the kids are still eating.

In this Feb. 12, 2018 photo, Edmond school counselor Wendy Joseph, left, cheers with other supporters of the teacher pay raise during a rally at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma educators frustrated with low pay and another round of proposed cuts to public schools are mulling an organized walkout to get lawmakers' attention. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) © AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki In this Feb. 12, 2018 photo, Edmond school counselor Wendy Joseph, left, cheers with other supporters of the teacher pay raise during a rally at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma educators frustrated with low pay and another round of proposed cuts to public schools are mulling an organized walkout to get lawmakers' attention. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) Public schools in West Virginia remained closed today for the eighth instructional day and teachers in Oklahoma might be the next to walk out statewide, officials said.

Echoing West Virginia teachers grievances for more pay and more staff, Oklahoma teachers and a newly formed group "Oklahoma Teacher Walkout - The Time Is Now!" are calling for the state's 41,000 teachers to walk off the job as soon as April 2, the group's leader said.

These West Virginia kids didn't treat the teacher strike as a vacation. They picketed too

  These West Virginia kids didn't treat the teacher strike as a vacation. They picketed too The students are sharing pictures using the hashtags #55Strong and #SecureOurFuture. The latter was started by a group of student organizers at Capital High School in Charleston. On February 21, they organized a purple-out across their school and neighboring counties to stand in solidarity with their teachers. Students wore purple to signify a combination of red and blue, the two teachers' union colors. Students from 18 schools across the state participated. The #SecureOurFuture leaders also penned an open letter to the people of their state, asking them to understand the importance of the strike.

"A walkout would be the last resort, but we want more money for education in the state, that means more money for supplies, more staff and pay raises so teachers will stay," said the group's leader, Alberto Morejon.

"Teachers are leaving left and right, we're the lowest paid in the country," said Morejon, an eight grade history teacher in Stillwater, OK, about 66 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, .

The group's Facebook page, created last week, has more than 36,400 followers.

Teachers from around the state met in a planning session in Tulsa Friday and Oklahoma City teacher Heather Reed said, "Our teachers are exhausted, tired," the Tulsa World reported.

Neither state education officials nor legislative officials were immediately available for comment.

West Virginia public schools to remain closed Friday despite tentative deal

  West Virginia public schools to remain closed Friday despite tentative deal Schools in West Virginia's 55 counties are set to remain closed on Friday with teachers continuing a strike, pushing it into its seventh day. ABC News affiliate WCHS reported Thursday that teachers would remain on strike after the state's Senate declined to take up legislation to raise pay for school and state employees.Gov. Jim Justice (R) and teachers' union leaders had reached a deal to raise pay for teachers and other state employees while appointing a task force to deal with issues related to the Public Employees' Insurance Agency (PEIA).

In West Virginia, the teachers' three major unions were promised a 5 percent pay raise last week from Republican Gov. Jim Justice.

The Republican-controlled House of Delegates voted in favor of the raise for the state's 35,000 teachers Saturday. But the Republican-controlled state senate balked and offered a 4 percent raise, with an eye toward saving $17 million in the state's budget.

The West Virginia Education Association, the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association and the American Federation of Teachers issued a joint statement Saturday that said they were "angry and disappointed" that an agreement hasn't been reached.

Governor Justice said in a tweet on Saturday night, "We've got to get our kids back to school." He added, "It's time to quit playing politics."

Neither union representatives nor a spokesperson for the state Senate were immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Rich McKay; Editing by Alexander Smith and Michael Perry)

Kentucky teachers rally over retirement cuts, warn of strike .
Hundreds of teachers in central Kentucky have rallied in front of public schools to protest proposed cuts to their retirement benefits in what could be a precursor to a statewide strike. Kentucky state Senators on Wednesday took the first step toward passing a bill they say would save taxpayers $3.2 billion over the next 20 years and stabilize one of the country's worst-funded public pension systems.But most of those savings would come from a 33 percent cut to the annual cost-of-living raises for retired teachers, who aren't eligible for Social Security benefits.

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