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Democrats hope teacher strikes will mobilize support for midterms

Democrats hope teacher strikes will mobilize support for midterms

With public school teachers taking a stand over low pay and dwindling education budgets in several Republican majority states, Democrats are sensing another opportunity to make inroads in the 2018 midterm elections.

After decades of championing private charter schools, school vouchers and tax cuts that gut budgets for public education, Republicans in states like West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arizona now find themselves the targets of angry teachers.

“Teachers are just fed up. We’re done,” Teresa Danks, a third-grade teacher at Grimes Elementary School in Tulsa, Okla., told Yahoo News.

The founder of the nonprofit Begging for Education, which solicits donations to pay for classroom supplies in a state that ranks 47th in per-student funding, Danks has joined fellow teachers this week in a walkout at the state Capitol protesting low pay.

“I talked to some Republicans in the Capitol yesterday and said to them, ‘The Republicans are really getting slammed because it seems like they want to dismantle public education. If that’s the case, the Republican Party should own that,’” Danks said.

“Teachers want more,” Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Mary Fallin told CBS News on Tuesday. “But it’s kind of like having a teenage kid that wants a better car.” When pressed over the lack of raises for teachers over the past several years, the governor said, “Well, it has been a difficult time and that’s why I’m very proud that this year we were able to get something done for our teachers.”

Under pressure, Oklahoma legislators last week passed the state’s first major sales-tax hike (on cigarettes, fuel, lodging, oil and gas production) in nearly 25 years, hoping to raise enough revenue to avert a teacher strike. But Danks says the roughly $6,000 raise isn’t enough, and points to a failed vote earlier in the year on a measure that would have given public school teachers a long overdue raise as proof that lawmakers still don’t get it.

“It was a final straw. A lot of us said, that’s it. We’ve had enough. I started a petition,” Danks said. “Teachers have gotten to the point where we feel we’re being disrespected. We’re being treated like we’re not important. Our jobs are viewed as glorified babysitting.”

Slideshow: Oklahoma teachers go on strike and rally at State Capitol >>>

Oklahoma ranked 49 out of 50 states in terms of teacher salaries, according to a 2016 report by the National Education Association. In part, that’s why teachers have balked at the $6,000 raise. Danks wants the state to pay raises closer to $10,000, and notes that she has been forced to spend up to $2,000 of her own money each year on school supplies for her classroom.

“We are in the classroom every day fighting for these kids and we’re living the nightmare of not having what we need, of having textbooks from when Bill Clinton was president, not enough paper, broken chairs and desks,” Danks said.

As the Oklahoma teachers’ walkout continues, Danks hopes political pressure will continue to mount on state legislators.

 ry, that’s another whole level of voting power,” Danks said. “Our goal after we finish at the Capitol is to keep reminding pa

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