OKLAHOMA CITY – Despite a walkout that lasted two weeks earlier this year, dozens of Oklahoma educators announced that they made the difficult decision to leave the classroom.
In March, the Oklahoma Education Association announced that it was seeking a $10,000 pay raise for Oklahoma teachers over three years, a $5,000 pay raise for support professionals over three years, a cost-of-living adjustment for retirees, and the restoration of funding for education and core government services.
OEA announced that it was tentatively planning a teacher walkout for April 2 if legislators didn’t meet those demands.
Days before the walkout was set to begin, Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill that raises teachers’ salaries by an average of $6,100. It also gives $1,250 raises for support staff and adds $50 million in education funding.
Although the bill almost reached the salary goal, organizers said it did little to restore education funding that has been cut for nearly a decade.
For nine days, thousands of educators and supporters headed to the Capitol to demand an increase to education funding. However, the walkout came to a sudden end.
“We need to face reality. Despite tens of thousands of people filling the Capitol and spilling out onto the grounds of this Capitol for nine days, we have seen no significant legislative movement since last Friday,” OEA President Alicia Priest said.
When the walkout came to an end, many teachers said they felt abandoned by the union and like the walkout had been for nothing.
VICE News spoke with 18 teachers who announced that they would be leaving the classroom for retirement or better jobs elsewhere.
While speaking about leaving the classroom, most of the educators broke down in tears.
“It’s really hard for me to make a decision that feels selfish, to leave them when they need me the most,” said Sierra Thompson, a 9th grade English teacher who has been in the classroom for nine years.