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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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ANDREA THOMAS: I can tell you --

AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead, Andrea.

ANDREA THOMAS: Sorry. I mean, I can give you an example. Like, they had a deal at our school where kids were getting class rings. My daughter didn't get a class ring. We couldn't afford a class ring. So, it's just things like that that hurt.

AMY GOODMAN: And you and your husband are both teachers. Your husband is selling his own blood, you're cleaning houses, in addition to teaching.


AMY GOODMAN: You've got four-day-a-week school, is that right? This is public school in Oklahoma.


AMY GOODMAN: So, the fifth day --


AMY GOODMAN: -- because they can't afford to keep the schools open the fifth day, and so you can work second and third jobs?

ANDREA THOMAS: Yes. And it does help with our second and third jobs. We have managed, I feel like, to handle that situation very well. Our students are still performing well with our four-day week. They're still getting the same amount of time that they got before. I feel like I might even be getting more in, in my lessons, because I have longer hours. So, it hasn't been negative, but it's been helpful for us as teachers.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Mike Elk, as you look at this movement across the country, particularly in red states, the states that elected Donald Trump, you've been covering education for years. You come out of West Virginia, the successful teachers' strike. Your final thoughts?

MIKE ELK: Well, Amy, I think we're in a new era. I think we're in a new period. And, you know, the only thing I can really compare this to is when we were organizing as digital media journalists. And I remember I was leading a drive at Politico in which I was fired, and Washington Post wrote an article called "Why don't internet journalists organize." It featured some of our organizing there at Politico. And I just remember hundreds of reporters tweeting about it and saying, "We're going to get it done." And the next couple years, we organized three outlets, including getting a first contract at HuffPo, Guardian, where I work, and other publications.

And what we found in that movement, I think, is what a lot of teachers are finding now, is the social media support has really changed the game. Teachers know, when they're out on a picket line, and they post a photo, and hundreds of their neighbors like it on Facebook, that people have their back. And that feedback loops quite simply didn't exist. So I think we're getting into a new era here. People are upset with the war on teachers. You know, we've seen students walk out over Donald Trump's repeal of DACA. We've seen students walk out over gun violence. We're seeing teachers walk out now. And, you know, in the state of Oklahoma, as well as in Kentucky, we're seeing a lot of local school boards being very supportive of folks walking out. So it's no longer a teachers' union versus the school board, or teachers' union versus the students. It's really students, teachers and school boards coming together against some of these Republican-dominated state legislatures.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to have to leave it there, Mike, but we're going to continue, of course, to follow this. And we're going to link to your piece, as you are senior labor reporter at Payday Report, "Wave of teachers' wildcat strikes spreads to Oklahoma and Kentucky." As you speak to us from Tulsa, thanks so much, and Andrea Thomas speaks to us from Oklahoma City, and Mickey McCoy, a retired English teacher, and state Democratic legislator Attica Scott speak to us from Louisville, Kentucky.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, speaking about movements, we go south. We go to Memphis, Tennessee. Fifty years ago today, a man who led major movements, Dr. Martin Luther King, was gunned down, was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Stay with us.

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Democracy Now!  is a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program hosted by journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. Pioneering the largest public media collaboration in the U.S., Democracy Now! is broadcast on (more...)
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