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Northeast Oklahoma Teachers Join Protest for Higher Wages and Mo - KOAM TV 7

Northeast Oklahoma Teachers Join Protest for Higher Wages and More Education Funding

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MIAMI, OKLAHOMA -

More than 200 Oklahoma schools are closed today as teachers staged a statewide walkout, with many of them gathering in Oklahoma City.  They say they plan to continue this walkout in a protest over low wages and education funding.  

Teachers say the pay increase and tax hike passed last week isn't enough.

Teachers in Northeast Oklahoma have also, of course, been picketing, calling for higher wages for them and support staff.  They also hope the short messages on their signs make the public realize how Oklahoma education, in general, needs more funding.

No school bells, but plenty of honking horns.

"Our community and the parents have been so supportive," says 33-year-old fourth grade science teacher Nicki Ruppert in Miami.  Ruppert stood with close to a dozen other teachers along Main Street with an obvious message.

"I think it's a crisis," says Ruppert.

Teachers say the latest teacher salary and education spending bill passed by lawmakers is unacceptable.

"A first-year teacher would be offered a five-thousand dollar raise," says Ruppert.

First-year Miami teachers make a starting salary of between 32 and 34 thousand dollars.

"A 25-year teacher could get an eight-thousand dollar raise.  I don't feel that's equal to the experience that they have," says Ruppert.

"I've kind of expected it to happen, just because we've never had that great of funding," says 16-year-old sophomore student Mia Engelbrecht in Miami.  She can see why teachers have had enough of what has become the norm.

"Papers and pencils and stuff, they buy.  Lab supplies...we can't have any labs or anything without them paying for it," says Engelbrecht.

Teachers say there needs to be millions of dollars more in classroom education funding.

"I'm thinking about my own family, and I'll be canceling my insurance this year just to pay for student loans," says Ruppert, who has a warning to state legislators.

"One of my favorite people says, love can't pay bills.  We love what we do.  We would do it no matter what.  But it's difficult to do what we're doing when the state doesn't appreciate you or think you're valuable.  That translates into our children aren't valuable," says Ruppert.

Ruppert says legislators need to act quickly before inadequate resources hurt students.

Miami teachers hope legislators come up with another proposal so that they can be back in the classrooms Thursday, but there is no guarantee right now.  

State testing for students began this week.  If results aren't submitted in a few weeks, Oklahoma could lose some education funding.

Click here to read the Oklahoma Education Association's statement about the ongoing negotiations.  

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