Kentucky legislature boosts school funding after teachers’ strike

Kentucky legislature boosts school funding after teachers' strike

Chicago (AFP) – Striking teachers in the US state of Kentucky on Friday won a major concession from lawmakers with a $480 million tax bill that includes a boost for public school funding. 

The teachers had earlier shuttered schools and descended on the capital Frankfort, the latest in a wave of protests that have swept Republican-governed states.

It began a day after tens of thousands of protesters in Oklahoma ended a two-week demonstration, declaring victory after the state legislature agreed to meet a little less than half of their demand for $200 million in increased funding for schools over three years.

The groundswell is part of a political shift that has seen teachers organize grassroots campaigns to flex their political muscle in several states where years of budget cuts that began during the 2008 economic downturn left salaries stagnant and many public schools in disrepair.

In Arizona, the mere threat of a teacher walkout appeared to have changed that state’s Republican governor’s mind about teacher raises. Governor Doug Ducey announced Thursday a plan to give teachers a 20-percent pay boost. 

The Kentucky Education Association (KEA), the teachers’ union which had previously organized a one-day march earlier this month, estimated that several thousand teachers were at the capital Frankfort on Friday.

“They filled up the whole plaza from the front door of the capitol,” KEA spokesman Charles Main told AFP.

“The slogan of the day, the thought of the day, the message to legislators is: fund our future.” 

Kentucky’s legislature overrode Governor Matt Bevin’s earlier veto of the two-year spending plan.

The final budget increases base funding for schools to $4,000 per student compared to $3,981 in the current school year, and also funds transportation and employee health insurance costs previously set to be paid for by local school districts.

Kentucky educators promised to return Saturday — on the last day of the legislative session — to ensure all of their demands are met.

Teachers in West Virginia got their first pay raise in four years last month after a nine-day strike.