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TEACHERS in Oklahoma and Arizona are considering industrial action in disputes over pay, following their West Virginia colleagues’ victory in the fight for a decent rise.
The West Virginia legislature approved a 5 per cent salary increase for the teachers yesterday, following years of pay restraint.
The state has some of the lowest teacher salaries in the country and many said they were struggling to make ends meet.
“To be able to do that there? I think people in Arizona started looking at each other saying: ‘Wow!’” said Noah Karvelis, an art teacher in Phoenix who helped launch a campaign urging Arizona teachers to wear red yesterday as a mark of solidarity.
The demonstration was meant to gauge interest in stronger action by Arizona teachers, who received a 1 per cent pay increase this year, Mr Karvelis said.
“I do think this strike can be the start of something big nationally,” said Melinda Monks, a special education teacher a primary school in South Charleston, West Virginia.
“Because the US … has fallen behind in education … and I think it’s time that teachers step forward and demand a more central role in education and more respect for our profession.”
The daily demonstrations and legislative fight in West Virginia were closely watched in Oklahoma, where teaching union president Alicia Priest said many were leaving the profession and the state because of funding cuts.
Teachers’ pay in Oklahoma is £3,500 to £14,000 lower than in neighbouring states and the union is pushing for a £7,000 rise over three years.
Nationally, the average teacher’s salary was about £42,000 last year — though workers in the US often have to pay for services provided by governments elsewhere, such as healthcare.
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