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Schools in Oklahoma and Kentucky closed as teachers strike for raises, pension plans and funding

An Oklahoma teacher rally was held at the state capitol on Monday in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Thousands of teachers and supporters are expected to attend, calling for higher wages and better school funding. Teachers are walking off the job after a $6,100 pay raise was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. (J Pat Carter/Getty Images)

About 200 school districts in Oklahoma and schools in 21 counties in Kentucky were closed Monday as teachers refused to show up in protest for pay raises, additional school funding, or to protest changes to pension plans.

What’s happening in Oklahoma?

Oklahoma teachers have been threatening this strike for weeks, telling lawmakers that they wanted a $10,000 raise over the next three years and a $200 million state investment in schools.

Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law a bill last week that raised salaries by an average of about $6,000 and provided $50 million in funding for schools through tax increases. That was enough to cause some districts not to strike, but most were not satisfied with the bill.

“It just broke my heart,” Jami Cole, a third-grade teacher in Oklahoma told The Washington Post. “We were dejected and disheartened…now I’m just angry.”

Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, called the law a "stunt."

“What yesterday looked like a positive step forward and a historic down payment on our children’s future now hangs in the balance as the Legislature dismantles the funding needed to solve this crisis they created in the first place," Priest said. "Stunts like these are why Oklahomans lack any trust or confidence in the state Legislature."

School districts may or may not be closed past Monday, and some districts are polling teachers on a daily basis to make that decision, leaving students and parents in limbo.

Other districts in the state have made plans to be closed the entire week.

What’s happening in Kentucky?

In Kentucky, teachers from 21 counties planned to march to the Capitol on Monday in protest of a pension bill that would change their retirement plans from full pensions to hybrid pension/401(k) savings plans and limit sick leave payments on retirement benefits.

The bill was thought to be nearly dead for weeks, but was revived Thursday and passed both the House and Senate within a matter of hours, angering opponents who said lawmakers weren’t given enough time to review it and determine its impact.

"As a teacher, I would never, ever give my students something that I haven't read myself," said chemistry teacher Morgan Taylor to the Courier-Journal. "I think a select group of people know what's in this (bill) and everyone else is just expected to toe the line."

Some school districts intentionally closed to allow teachers to participate in the march to the Capitol, while others closed when a majority of teachers called in sick.

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