Oklahoma teachers strike enters second week with rally at Capitol

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla., April 9 (Reuters) - Oklahoma teachers carried their strike into a second week on Monday, with educators gathering at the state capitol after a $44 million tax and revenue package passed last week fell short of their demands to boost school spending.

Teachers are pushing for $200 million in increased annual education funding in a state that ranks among the lowest in school spending in the nation. A strike by West Virginia teachers ended in a raise last month and has prompted educators in other states to consider similar action.

Crowds of teachers began to file into the state Capitol in Oklahoma City on Monday, according to videos posted on social media. The Oklahoma Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union with about 40,000 members, listed only one item on its website for its morning agenda: "Pack the second floor of Capitol rotunda."

The strike has garnered support from many of the state's school administrators and much of the public and affected more than 500,000 students statewide, with 66 school districts expected to close.

The union has said the walkout would end if lawmakers removed capital gains exemptions, which could bring in an additional $100 million in revenue, and implemented a hotel tax that would bring in an estimated $50 million.

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Statewide teacher strike in West Virginia, Kentucky
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Statewide teacher strike in West Virginia, Kentucky
Thousands of Kentucky school teachers marched Monday, April 2, 2018 from the Kentucky Education Association's headquarters to the State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky. to protest legislative changes to their pensions and education cuts. Public schools in all 120 Kentucky counties were closed Monday, either to join in the protest or because of spring break. (Charles Bertram/Lexington Herald-Leader/TNS via Getty Images)
Thousands of Kentucky school teachers marched Monday, April 2, 2018 from the Kentucky Education Association's headquarters to the State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky. to protest legislative changes to their pensions and education cuts. Public schools in all 120 Kentucky counties were closed Monday, either to join in the protest or because of spring break. (Charles Bertram/Lexington Herald-Leader/TNS via Getty Images)
Thousands of Kentucky teachers rallied at the state Capitol in Frankfort, Ky. on Monday, April 2, 2018. (Alex Slitz/Lexington Herald-Leader/TNS via Getty Images)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 2: An Oklahoma teacher walks the picket line at the state capitol on April 2, 2018 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Thousands of teachers and supporters are scheduled to rally Monday at the state Capitol calling for higher wages and better school funding. Teachers are walking off the job after a $6,100 pay raise was rushed through the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 2: Ella Roach holds a protest sign in support of her teacher, Kimberly Cox, during a rally at the state capitol on April 2, 2018 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Thousands of teachers and supporters are scheduled to rally Monday at the state Capitol calling for higher wages and better school funding. Teachers are walking off the job after a $6,100 pay raise was rushed through the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 2: Conner McElveen, an Oklahoma City teacher, holds a protest sign about the lacking of taxation on the oil industry, at the state capitol on April 2, 2018 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Thousands of teachers and supporters are scheduled to rally Monday at the state Capitol calling for higher wages and better school funding. Teachers are walking off the job after a $6,100 pay raise was rushed through the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
Teachers and demonstrators hold signs during a rally outside the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S., on Friday, March 2, 2018. A week ago, thousands of public school teachers in West Virginia went out on strike, a rare but familiar union-organized action to protest low wages and rising health-care costs. Tuesday night, state union leaders and the Governor Jim Justice reached a deal, and the teachers were expected to be back at work on Thursday, but they didn't go. Unsatisfied with the resolution, they stayed on the picket line, mounting one of the country's biggest unauthorized 'wildcat' strikes in decades. Photographer: Scott Heins/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Teachers and demonstrators gather during a rally outside the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S., on Friday, March 2, 2018. A week ago, thousands of public school teachers in West Virginia went out on strike, a rare but familiar union-organized action to protest low wages and rising health-care costs. Tuesday night, state union leaders and the Governor Jim Justice reached a deal, and the teachers were expected to be back at work on Thursday, but they didn't go. Unsatisfied with the resolution, they stayed on the picket line, mounting one of the country's biggest unauthorized 'wildcat' strikes in decades. Photographer: Scott Heins/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Teachers and demonstrators hold signs during a rally outside the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S., on Friday, March 2, 2018. A week ago, thousands of public school teachers in West Virginia went out on strike, a rare but familiar union-organized action to protest low wages and rising health-care costs. Tuesday night, state union leaders and the Governor Jim Justice reached a deal, and the teachers were expected to be back at work on Thursday, but they didn't go. Unsatisfied with the resolution, they stayed on the picket line, mounting one of the country's biggest unauthorized 'wildcat' strikes in decades. Photographer: Scott Heins/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Teachers and demonstrators hold signs and chant during a rally outside the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S., on Friday, March 2, 2018. A week ago, thousands of public school teachers in West Virginia went out on strike, a rare but familiar union-organized action to protest low wages and rising health-care costs. Tuesday night, state union leaders and the Governor Jim Justice reached a deal, and the teachers were expected to be back at work on Thursday, but they didn't go. Unsatisfied with the resolution, they stayed on the picket line, mounting one of the country's biggest unauthorized 'wildcat' strikes in decades. Photographer: Scott Heins/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Striking teachers stand on a small picket line outside the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S., on Friday, March 2, 2018. A week ago, thousands of public school teachers in West Virginia went out on strike, a rare but familiar union-organized action to protest low wages and rising health-care costs. Tuesday night, state union leaders and the Governor Jim Justice reached a deal, and the teachers were expected to be back at work on Thursday, but they didn't go. Unsatisfied with the resolution, they stayed on the picket line, mounting one of the country's biggest unauthorized 'wildcat' strikes in decades. Photographer: Scott Heins/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Demonstrators hold a sign reading '#55United' during a rally outside the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S., on Friday, March 2, 2018. A week ago, thousands of public school teachers in West Virginia went out on strike, a rare but familiar union-organized action to protest low wages and rising health-care costs. Tuesday night, state union leaders and the Governor Jim Justice reached a deal, and the teachers were expected to be back at work on Thursday, but they didn't go. Unsatisfied with the resolution, they stayed on the picket line, mounting one of the country's biggest unauthorized 'wildcat' strikes in decades. Photographer: Scott Heins/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Striking school workers hold signs and chant inside the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S., on Friday, March 2, 2018. A week ago, thousands of public school teachers in West Virginia went out on strike, a rare but familiar union-organized action to protest low wages and rising health-care costs. Tuesday night, state union leaders and the Governor Jim Justice reached a deal, and the teachers were expected to be back at work on Thursday, but hey didn't go. Unsatisfied with the resolution, they stayed on the picket line, mounting one of the country's biggest unauthorized 'wildcat' strikes in decades. Photographer: Scott Heins/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Support and SOLIDARITY for the underpaid teachers of West Virginia who are fighting for higher wages at a time when… https://t.co/g0kzb2psXI
West Virginia's public schools are closed for a third day today after nearly 20,000 public school teachers walked o… https://t.co/vrIPUX2jIW
All 680 public schools in West Virginia are closed. Here's why: https://t.co/k8PImg4xDr https://t.co/9oxzlV92Bk
BREAKING: West Virginia teachers still aren’t going back to work. Union leaders just announced that the strike will… https://t.co/3npM2CL0X5
Teachers in West Virginia are still feeding their students during an expected two-day strike https://t.co/H58LZ1eh7N https://t.co/FuRRmTOuAR
I’m always shocked how little teachers are paid. Don’t our representatives know that teachers have one of the harde… https://t.co/h9cqyXk9En
West Virginia teachers are making sure their students get fed while they're on strike https://t.co/wtywBsmquu
Organizers say teachers in West Virginia are so poorly paid that some must take second jobs to make ends meet https://t.co/Wryo0CEsSl
A teacher's strike is keeping public schools closed for a third day in West Virginia. https://t.co/uVDGQQnepY
As of Sunday, all 55 counties in West Virginia had preemptively called off school for today. https://t.co/zBQGviPTd1
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 2: A teacher holds a protest sign at the state capitol on April 2, 2018 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Thousands of teachers and supporters are scheduled to rally Monday at the state Capitol calling for higher wages and better school funding. Teachers are walking off the job after a $6,100 pay raise was rushed through the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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"If they can do those two items, that would be significant," said Doug Folks, a spokesman for the association.

The strike has garnered strong public backing, with a statewide survey from the Sooner Poll agency showing that 72.1 percent of respondents supported the walkout.

Opponents of the tax hikes, including Oklahoma Taxpayers United, argue that lawmakers could boost education spending by cutting bureaucracy and waste rather than raising taxes.

Last month, lawmakers approved the state's first major tax increase in a quarter century, a $400 million revenue package that raised teacher pay by an average of about $6,000.

But the teachers are seeking $10,000 over three years. Even with the pay raise approved by lawmakers, their mean salaries would be lower than teachers in every neighboring state, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data showed.

Oklahoma has the lowest median pay among states for both elementary and secondary school teachers, according to 2018 bureau data. The minimum salary for a first-year teacher was $31,600, according to state data.

(Writing and additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York Editing by Scott Malone and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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