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Local & Regional

Most Public Schools Closed Again Today

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Oklahoma Public Media Exchange
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Many schools will remain closed for a second day in Oklahoma Tuesday as teachers rally for higher pay and education funding in a rebellion that has hit several Republican-led states across the country.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation last week granting 15 to 18 percent higher salaries to teachers. But some educators — who haven't seen a pay increase in 10 years — say that isn't good enough and walked out.

"If I didn't have a second job, I'd be on food stamps," said Rae Lovelace, a single mom and a third-grade teacher at Leedey Public Schools in northwest Oklahoma who works 30 to 40 hours a week at a second job teaching online courses for a charter school.

Oklahoma's three largest school districts, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Edmond, will remain closed Tuesday to honor the walkout. Some schools are offering free meals to students aged 18 or younger, while various churches, faith organizations and charitable agencies are providing free day-care services. Spring break was last week in many Oklahoma districts.

Fallin warned Monday that the state budget is tight and there are other critical needs besides education.

"We must be responsible not to neglect other areas of need in the state, such as corrections and health and human services, as we continue to consider additional education funding measures," the Republican said.

But Democratic lawmaker Collin Walke said teachers should keep up the pressure. Two separate bills pending in the Legislature to expand tribal gambling and eliminate the income tax deduction for capital gains could generate more than $100 million in additional funding each year.

"I think the Republican strategy is to wait the teachers out," Walke said.

Oklahoma ranks 47th among states and the District of Columbia in public school revenue per student while its average teacher salary of $45,276 ranked 49th before the latest raises, according to the most recent statistics from the National Education Association.