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Oklahoma's Governor Just Compared Striking Teachers to Spoiled Teens

Governor Mary Fallin also said she thought antifa was partly to blame for the protests at the state Capitol.

by Harry Cheadle
Apr 4 2018, 11:45pm

Left: Mary Fallin in 2012, photo by Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call; Right: A protester at the state Capitol, photo by J Pat Carter/Getty

This week Oklahoma became the latest red state where teachers went on strike to protest what they see as abysmally low pay, and there's no easy end to the labor stoppage in sight—especially not after Governor Mary Fallin told CBS News on Tuesday that dealing with the teachers is "kind of like having a teenage kid that wants a better car."

Those remarks came as teachers swarmed the state Capitol for the second day in a row; the Washington Post reported that the building was so full, state troopers closed the doors. Those teachers are part of a movement that began in West Virginia but has spread to Kentucky, Arizona, and Oklahoma in response to the years-long trend of deep cuts to education.

In Oklahoma, the problems are especially acute. The state ranks at or near the bottom when it comes to teacher salaries (the average high school teacher there makes $42,460 a year), and the education budget has dropped 28 percent since 2008 amid income tax cuts and falling oil prices; one Oklahoma teacher told VICE News she hadn't received a raise in ten years. In some parts of Oklahoma, as in other states, school districts have gone to a four-day week.

Last week, before the strike, state lawmakers passed a bill that would hike taxes to give teachers a $6,000 raise, but teachers are holding out for both a $10,000 raise over three years and a $200 million bump in the state education budget. When Fallin signed that bill, she said of the teachers, "I hope they can come up here and say 'thank you' on Monday and go back to the classrooms.” (They did neither.)

Fallin has become something of a lightning rod during the strike—she's been jeered for supposedly wearing an expensive necklace, and she also told CBS News that she thought "antifa" was behind the protests.

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Watch VICE News's feature about the striking teachers in Oklahoma: