As West Virginia Rages, 'Tipping Point' in Oklahoma Has Teachers Planning Walkout of Their Own

What is happening in West Virginia may not necessarily stay in West Virginia.

As thousands of teachers in the state occupied the state house on the eighth day of a walkout that has closed every public school in West Virginia, momentum is gathering among teachers in Oklahoma for a potential strike to protest their low pay and high healthcare costs.

A petition has gathered more than 25,000 signatures of teachers and supporters who object to the state’s low teacher salaries—the lowest average pay for educators in the nation, at $42,460—with hundreds of signatures being added on Monday.

“We really are at a tipping point.”—Chuck McCauley, Bartlesville, Okla. School Superintendent

“Oklahoma needs new teachers, Oklahoma needs to retain current teachers,” reads the petition. “Teachers in Oklahoma need a raise of $10,000 per year to be competetive regionally. Our neighbor states are paying much more and luring away our best talent.”

Talk of a potential strike grew last month after a proposal called Step Up Oklahoma was defeated in the state House of Representatives. The plan would have raised taxes on the oil and gas industry as well as cigarettes, fuel, and wind energy, in order to give the state’s teachers a $5,000 raise.

A teacher from the city of Stillwater, Okla., started a Facebook page called “Oklahoma Teacher Walkout—The Time Is Now!” last week, gaining more than 38,000 members in a matter of days.