Oklahoma teachers might follow West Virginia in strike, walk outs

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Friday, March 1, marked the seventh straight day all of the West Virginia public schools have been closed due to a statewide teacher strike to protest the rising cost of health insurance within the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA).

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 Tulsa World newspaper and the group's Facebook page said.

In a joint statement, the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, West Virginia Education Association and the School Service Personnel Association say Senate President Mitch Carmichael and its leadership team has left them with no choice.

BORN: Senators and the West Virginia State Senate passed a teacher pay-raise bill of 4 percent, and that was less than what teachers had been asking for. The two legislative bodies will now have to reconcile the two bills, the AP noted, and it is unclear when that process will take place. It wasn't yet clear when it would meet.

A legislative conference committee appointed to resolve differences between the state Senate and House is scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne.

The vote came as the teachers' strike rolled into its second weekend.

Numerous individuals from the Republican-controlled state government have called the strike illicit, including the Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. "But in West Virginia we've been able to do this without tax increases".

Essentially, he said, everybody deserves to have that 4 percent raise and the money saved would enable that to happen. After an initial round of protests, the House of Delegates later approved a 5 percent increase, negotiated last week between Justice and the unions.

"We're all caught up in our egos", said Democratic Sen. Douglas Facemire of Sutton, reports the Chicago Tribune. In a state with a 17.9 percent poverty rate, teachers and volunteers have gathered food for distribution to students who rely on free breakfasts and lunches at school. When I realized that they were taking hundreds of dollars and then they tried to tell me they were giving me a pay raise of 1 percent, I knew I can't just sit back.

The teacher walkout over pay and benefits in this Appalachian mountain state shuttered classrooms February 22 but shows no signs of an immediate resolution.

The West Virginia House of Delegates refused to concur with the Senate changes to teacher pay increases, however, according to WCHS. Pay starts at about $33,000 a year, lower than in surrounding states. While everyone is focused on the mistakes, my focus is exclusively on getting our children back to school. Justice stressed on Twitter that the back and forth "wrangling" needs to stop.

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