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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/4/18

Teachers in Revolt: Meet the Educators in Kentucky & Oklahoma Walking Out over School Funding

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AMY GOODMAN: Andrea --

ANDREA THOMAS: -- and you're just trying to survive.

AMY GOODMAN: Andrea, in Oklahoma --

ANDREA THOMAS: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: -- I think the teacher salaries are like 49th in the country. That's 49 out of 50. Also, in some school districts, there's so little money that classes are only four days a week. They close school on the fifth day, also so teachers can make some extra money doing other jobs. How do you and your husband get by?

ANDREA THOMAS: Yes, we are relying on that fifth day now for our extra jobs. We both work at an Herbalife shop. We both, you know, sell Herbalife. I sell Monat. I clean houses. My husband, he even sells plasma, you know, his own plasma, when things get super tough. It's caused us --

AMY GOODMAN: He sells his blood?

ANDREA THOMAS: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you find -- are you cleaning the houses of your students?

ANDREA THOMAS: No, I do for a shop and for, you know, just some people in town.

AMY GOODMAN: That will amaze people around the country, that schools are closed on the fifth day, for teachers to be able to make more money and just because they can't keep the schools open. I wanted to go across to Kentucky, to Mickey McCoy. You're a retired English teacher, deeply concerned about your pension. Can you talk about what's happening in Kentucky now, as thousands of teachers have descended on the state Capitol in Frankfort? Talk about what you're most concerned with.

MICKEY McCOY: Well, I'm most concerned with, and most of my brothers and sisters who have come down, to 12,000 to 15,000 the other day, are concerned about this war that is on education. There's a war on public education. And it seems that the teachers didn't need to be drafted. They volunteered. And they will continue to volunteer until we can straighten out the things that need to be straightened out.

It's not just about pensions. It's not just about our medical insurance. Do you understand that we have like youth service centers that are being cut? And these youth service centers help the kids, both in urban areas and in rural areas, where I'm from, with things that they need, not only just school supplies, but a shirt on their back, shoes on their feet. They give them extra food to take home.

And this Legislature -- well, this governor, Governor Matt Bevin, is sort of like a general in this war on education, public education, and wants to replace public education with charter schools, charter schools that will pick and choose who they're going to teach, charter schools who will not care for -- who will not take the underprivileged kids. They seem to -- are able to build their little school the way they want to. And if this is allowed to be funded in Kentucky or any state, we're going to change this nation into a place of the haves and have-nots. And we ain't gonna let that happen. No, not in Kentucky.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to the person who's sitting right next to you, the Kentucky state Representative Attica Scott. Attica Scott is the first African-American woman to serve on Kentucky's state -- serve in Kentucky's state Legislature in 20 years. Thousands of teachers descended on the Capitol yesterday. Can you talk about what it was like to simply get into your building, State Legislator Scott?

REP. ATTICA SCOTT: Definitely. Yes. Thank you so much. I actually come from an activism and organizing background as the former coordinator of Kentucky Jobs with Justice. So, for me, it was exciting to see this kind of mobilizing and organizing that we need to have more of in Kentucky. We need more of that righteous anger that Dr. King had. We need more of the people descending on their state Capitol and saying that Kentucky deserves better.

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