2018 Oklahoma teachers' strike

Last updated
2018 Oklahoma teachers' strike
Part of the 2018–19 education workers' strikes in the United States
DateApril 2, 2018 (2018-04-02) April 12, 2018 (2018-04-12)
Caused by
  • Ongoing education cuts
  • $10,000 salary raise for teachers
  • $1,250 salary raise for support staff
Resulted in
  • $6,000 salary raise for teachers
  • $1,250 salary raise for support staff
  • Increased public school funding through tobacco tax
Parties to the civil conflict
Oklahoma Education Association
Lead figures
Alicia Priest

The 2018 Oklahoma teachers' strike began on April 2, 2018, with teachers across the state walking out to protest low pay, overcrowded classrooms, and tax cuts that resulted in lower state-wide education spending. It was the first such action in Oklahoma since 1990. [1] The OEA declared an end to the strike on April 12 after an agreement to increase salaries and state funding for education was reached. The call to end the strike faced some objection from teachers and parents who do not believe that enough concessions were made by lawmakers. [2]


Unlike the similar action in West Virginia, the strike was not a "wildcat" strike, as it received endorsement from union leadership, albeit only after pressure from teachers. [3] The protest occurred concurrent with similar protests in Arizona, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Colorado. [4]

2018 West Virginia teachers strike

The West Virginia teachers' and school personnel strike began on February 22, 2018 with a call from the West Virginia branches of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, and the West Virginia School Service Personnel for school employees across West Virginia to strike. The strike, called in response to anger among teachers and other school employees over low pay and high health care costs, involved roughly 20,000 teachers and public school employees and shut down schools in all 55 West Virginia counties, affecting some 250,000 students. It lasted until March 7, 2018.

A wildcat strike action, often referred to as a wildcat strike, is a strike action undertaken by unionized workers without union leadership's authorization, support, or approval; this is sometimes termed an unofficial industrial action.

2018 Arizona teachers strike 2018 strike in the United States

The 2018 Arizona teachers' strike was held from April 26–May 3, 2018 by 20,000 teachers to protest low pay and cuts to school funding. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey had approved a proposal giving a 20 percent raise to teachers by 2020, with a 9 percent raise in 2019; teachers rejected this proposal as it did not provide increased funding for schools themselves or raises for support staff. It has coincided with a similar strike in neighboring Colorado.


State of public education in Oklahoma

Since 2008, education spending per student in Oklahoma has fallen 28%. [5] Due to the decrease in funding, twenty percent of schools run on four-day weeks, and many have eliminated art and language classes and shut down sports programs. [6] Gains from last teachers' strike in Oklahoma, in 1990, which resulted in an agreement to lower class sizes, expand kindergarten programs, and increase teacher wages were later reversed due to budget cuts. [6] The decline in funding and subsequent decline in the quality of public education has resulted in the expansion of charter schools in the state. [6]

Plans for a strike

Support for a strike began to build in early March of 2018, after a proposal (dubbed the "Step Up" plan) failed to pass. The "Step Up" plan would have increased certain taxes and boosted teacher pay by $5,000. [1] Both Democrats and Republicans voted against the bill. Some Democrats who voted "no" believed the plan did not go far enough to restore funding.

Plans for a strike beginning on April 2 were first floated in March. On April 2, schools throughout Oklahoma were scheduled to take standardized tests; preventing these tests from taking place could potentially jeopardize millions in federal funds allocated to Oklahoma. [1] After Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin passed a limited budget increase on Friday, March 30, a strike beginning on the 2nd was announced.


The strike lasted from April 2nd to April 12th. [7] [8] Teachers won greater school funding and salary increases, funded in part by increases in the cigarette tax, motor fuel tax, and the gross production tax on petroleum. [9] Strike leaders had called for the introduction of a capital gains tax to avoid a regressive tax, but the terms were nevertheless accepted. [10]

Salary demands

Public school teacher salaries in Oklahoma prior to the strike were the third lowest in the United States (after South Dakota and Mississippi), resulting in some teachers and staffers working second or third jobs. [3] [6] [11] An initial offer of a $6,000 wage increase, ratified by the governor, was rejected, as the initial demands were for a $10,000 raise for teachers and a $1250 raise for support staff. [12]

Reactions from state officials

Governor Mary Fallin likened teacher demands to "...teenager(s) wanting a better car”. [13] The quote was appropriated by teachers and used in chants during protests at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

State representative Kevin McDugle, a Republican, indicated he would not pass any bill or measure to increase education spending due to the protests undertaken by the teachers.


A survey in 2019 found that the pay raise obtained by the strike had lifted the State’s teacher pay ranking to 34th in the nation, higher than the surrounding states of New Mexico, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas, but still lower than Colorado or Texas. [14]

Ten Republican representatives who were opposed to raising taxes to increase teacher salaries were up for re-election in 2018. Two, Scott McEachin and Chuck Strohm, were eliminated by other Republican nominees during the initial primary, while a further seven did not gain enough votes to win their primaries uncontested. [15] These seven faced runoff elections in August 2018, and six lost.

See also

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  9. "Your state taxes go up on Sunday, and that's good". Tulsa World. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
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  11. "Are Oklahoma teachers the lowest paid? Nearly". www.politifact.com. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  12. Osberg, Molly (2 April 2018). "Oklahoma Is the Latest Red State Where Teachers Are Rising Up". Splinter. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  13. Gstalter, Morgan (5 April 2018). "Oklahoma teachers jingle keys, chant 'Where's my car?' at governor". The Hill. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  14. "Teacher pay raise boosts Oklahoma to 34th in nation, new rankings find". Andrea Eger, Tulsa World, April 29, 2019. Retrieved April 29, 2019.
  15. Jilani, Zaid (29 August 2018). "IN OKLAHOMA AND ARIZONA, PRIMARY VOTERS REWARDED CANDIDATES WHO STOOD WITH TEACHERS". The Intercept. Retrieved 5 September 2018.