In wake of the ongoing protests in Oklahoma where hundreds of teachers are protesting to demand pay raises and more funding for a school system reeling from a decade of budget cuts, a teacher posted a picture of a broken chair to show the public what classroom conditions are like in the state.
Little did she know what an overwhelming response she would get.
Laurissa Kovacs, an art teacher from Puterbaugh Middle School in McAlester, Oklahoma, tried to raise awareness on why teachers in the state are protesting and while doing so, she clicked a picture of a broken chair in her classroom and uploaded it on Facebook.
“OK here’s my story and why I’m walking out. This is my fourth year teaching in Oklahoma and after taxes and insurance I take home $2,311 a month, $27,732 a year… I literally do not have enough chairs for 32 students. This photo is something every one of my students is familiar with. Today a student actually carried his chair with him to sharpen his pencil because he got in early enough to get a good chair,” she said in the post.
Kovacs also added she had to bring folding chairs from home to her class because there aren’t enough chairs for her students.
Just a week after she shared the picture, as of now, supporters donated more than $44,000 worth of school supplies and has been shared more than 84,000 times. Her post also had a link to an Amazon page which had school supplies that included chairs, pencils, sharpeners and chairs.
The response Kovacs received was overwhelming.
"At the end of the day I felt like I needed people to see just a glimpse of the issues we face every day. The past five days has been totally surreal and I don't think the full effect will hit me until I'm back in my classroom with my students. I think they will be amused to see me cry when I'm explaining everything,” she told CNN.
Kovacs added, “My plans are to share, share, share! I'm not the only one in my district who needs things, so I'll be sharing it all.”
Striking teachers said years of budget austerity in many states have led to the stagnation of already poor salaries. According to National Education Association estimates for 2016, Oklahoma ranked 48th, followed by Mississippi at 49 and South Dakota at 50, in terms of average U.S. classroom teacher salary.
Oklahoma secondary school teachers had an annual mean wage of $42,460 as of May 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The minimum salary for a first year teacher was $31,600, state data showed.
The mean wage for teachers in every neighboring state is higher, causing many experienced teachers to leave Oklahoma, where some budget-strained districts have been forced to implement four-day school weeks.
That’s awesome! https://t.co/Ql78LDHHqz— Ali Carlson (@acarlson623) April 5, 2018
Banner/Thumbnail: Reuters, Nick Oxford