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The Latest: Fewer Oklahoma teachers back at state Capitol

Kara Walk, Ivana Beatty
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Latest on teacher walkouts and a rally in Kentucky (all times local):

1:15 p.m.

Thousands of Oklahoma teachers and their supporters descended on the state Capitol again, but crowds were noticeably smaller after the state’s largest teachers union called for the walkout to end.

Some of the state’s largest districts, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa, already had planned to close on Friday for a tenth consecutive day after frustrated teachers walked off their jobs demanding more funding for classrooms.

Many districts plan to reopen on Monday but intend to keep sending delegations of teachers to meet with lawmakers.

Alberto Morejon is a junior high history teacher from Stillwater. He launched a teacher walkout page on Facebook and says the movement will continue. He says some teachers intend to stay off the job until the Legislature approves more funding. Others have announced plans to run for office.

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12:30 p.m.

A sign denoting the “Mitch McConnell Building” at the Republican Party of Kentucky headquarters has been vandalized with red spray paint.

The state party’s headquarters is just down the street from the state Capitol, where thousands of teachers, many of them wearing red T-shirts, marched Friday in support of public education. They are demanding lawmakers override Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s veto of a two-year operating budget and an accompanying tax increase that fuels record education spending.

Party spokesman Tres Watson tweeted a photo of the sign covered in red spray paint. Watson told The Associated Press he assumes the culprit was someone marching with the teachers, since they have been wearing red.

Watson said the party respects and embraces people’s right to demonstrate but said vandalism does nothing but diminish the cause they are fighting for.

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11 a.m.

Kentucky’s budget director says lawmakers could introduce new revenue and spending bills after the governor rejected previous bills and angered teachers, many of whom have gathered at the Capitol to call for more education spending.

But acting House Speaker David Osborne said there are no new bills. He says lawmakers could pass amendments to the bills that have already passed.

Republican lawmakers approved a two-year budget earlier this month that included record increases in public education spending that were to be paid for with an accompanying $480 million tax increase.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin vetoed both bills, arguing the tax increase was not enough to cover the new spending. The teachers are urging lawmakers to override the governor’s vetoes. Osborne said he did not know if the House would vote to override.

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9:20 a.m.

Thousands of teachers are rallying outside the Kentucky Capitol to call for more state funding for education.

The demonstration Friday morning had a festival-like atmosphere as teachers sat in lawn chairs or sprawled out on blankets. They chanted “vote them out” and “we love our children.”

The teachers are upset with Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s vetoes of budget and revenue bills. The GOP-controlled Legislature is expected to decide Friday whether they will accept or reject the vetoes and the votes are expected to be close.

Stephanie Ikanovic was one of the teachers at the rally. She has been teaching for more than two decades. She says she would rather be in the classroom Friday morning but she is so worried about education spending that she decided to miss work to make sure her voice was heard.

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8:50 a.m.

Kentucky police say they might limit the number of teachers inside the state Capitol as thousands are expected to protest the governor’s vetoes of the state budget.

A news release from the Kentucky State Police says crowd size inside the Capitol and the Annex building “may be limited” for safety reasons. Police officers are checking IDs of state workers and others entering through the Capitol’s alternate entrances.

Hundreds of teachers have gathered on the front steps of the Capitol before a 9 a.m. rally. Most teachers and school staff arrived on school buses, disembarking while the Crosby Stills, Nash and Young song “Teach Your Children” played from some loud speakers.

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12:10 a.m.

Teachers who clogged the halls of Kentucky’s Capitol when lawmakers last met are set to return in force as they loudly demand that the legislature defy a Republican governor and restore increases in education funding.

School was canceled in more than 30 districts statewide — including Kentucky’s two largest in Louisville and Lexington — to accommodate all the teachers and other school workers wanting to attend the latest rally. Other districts sent delegations but kept classes open.

Kentucky lawmakers are reconvening Friday for a scheduled two-day wrap-up of the legislative session. They’re likely to get a boisterous reception from teachers.

Kentucky’s unrest comes as teachers in Oklahoma and Arizona have protested low funding and teacher pay. The demonstrations were inspired by West Virginia teachers, whose nine-day walkout earlier this year led to a 5 percent pay increase.

In Kentucky, teacher anger has boiled over amid changes to their pension system and a battle for more education funding.

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