U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said that striking teachers in Oklahoma shouldn’t let “adult disagreements” get in the way of serving students.
“I think we need to stay focused on what’s right for kids,” DeVos told the Dallas Morning News last week. “I hope that adults would keep adult disagreements and disputes in a separate place, and serve the students that are there to be served.”
Oklahoma’s teachers are among the lowest paid in the country and haven’t had a raise since 2008. A statewide walkout has stretched into a second week, even though the legislature has acted to partially meet educators’ demands.
The teachers’ union wants $10,000 pay raise over three years and a $200 million boost to education funding, along with raises for support staff and other measures. So far, the legislature has passed a $6,100 pay raise for teachers and an additional $50 million for public schools, and Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, has signed both changes into law.
On social media, some educators pushed back on DeVos’ description of the situation in Oklahoma:
It’s easy to tell teachers to stop thinking about money when your job with a cushy paycheck is bought and paid for. https://t.co/kMJifEPmDF
— Kaitlin Rodrigues (@missrodELL826) April 9, 2018
You know what would be absolutely best for kids? If teachers worked for free. No budget constraints, no pesky taxes needed to support schools. It’d be great. https://t.co/YumQH9mx6o
— EdReal (@Ed_Realist) April 9, 2018
DeVos had a similar message about a statewide teacher walkout in West Virginia earlier this year, which lasted for nine days and ended with a 5 percent pay raise for all teachers.
But kids are directly harmed when they are barred from going to school to learn. So I hope both sides in WV come to the table to negotiate a swift resolution and get students back in their schools
— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) February 27, 2018
Organizations that DeVos helped fund and found often clashed with teachers’ unions on policy in her home state of Michigan. More in this story.
The walk-outs in West Virginia and Oklahoma have inspired protests in Arizona and Kentucky. Maddy Will of the Teacher Beat blog has a great explainer here.