Following a successful teacher's wildcat strike in West Virginia that shut down schools for nine days, Oklahoma teachers are following suit with a strike of their own starting Monday.
Craig Troxell steps precariously across a customer's roof, marking hail damage from yet another Oklahoma storm. He still smells of the freshly cut grass from the swanky side of town, where he had just mowed lawns to make a few extra dollars.
But Troxell, 50, isn't a landscaper nor roof salesman by trade. He's a full-time high school science teacher who works four jobs to make ends meet.
"Teacher morale gets worse every year," said Troxell, who also drives a school bus before and after school. "I've heard a lot of my (teacher) acquaintances walk away and get a different job. They don't want to do it anymore."
Oklahoma is among the bottom three states for teacher salaries, where educators often work about 10 years before reaching the $40,000 salary mark. And they haven't gotten a raise from the state in 10 years.
While educators nationwide have seen slight paycheck bumps over the past decade, when adjusted for inflation, teachers have actually lost 3% of their income from 2006 to 2016, according to the National Education Association.
Recently, the Oklahoma teachers' union called for $10,000 teacher raises, $5,000 raises for support staff and more than $200 million for education funding.
Lawmakers agreed on an average teacher raise of $6,100, $1,250 for support staff and a $50 million increase in education funding -- a measure Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law Thursday.
But many teachers say it's not enough. So on Monday, Troxell and thousands of other teachers will walk out -- prompting some schools to shut down indefinitely.
"We're at the end of the rope," Troxell said.
He's far from alone. Several teachers told CNN they're working multiple jobs in food delivery, retail, rideshare driving, restaurants and even surrogate pregnancy to pay the bills. Some now rely on a food bank to feed their own children.
You have to go into it for the love of the job and kids, because you'll never do the job for the money. We live in a nation where we value education as the great equalizer, and then make sure the men and women providing it are themselves college graduates and are making less money than retail store managers or kitchen managers.
Then we constantly attack them as greedy agents of a manipulative conspiracy to destroy our kids' minds and cut their salaries as a result. Ten years ago in the last recession thousands of teachers were laid off and tens of thousands more saw their benefits dismantled by states.
It's gotten so bad that even here in Bevinstan, teachers are taking to the streets this week too.
Multiple school systems in Kentucky were forced to close Friday, as teacher absences soared amid growing protest over legislation that educators say would strike a blow to pension plans.
Teachers from across the state descended on the capitol in Frankfort, outraged about what they described as a surprise move to pass legislation their union said Friday would mean existing employees pay more for pension benefits and new hires don’t get the same plan that previous generations relied on.
The protesters hung a sprawling banner from a capitol balcony — “Kentucky deserves better” — as hundreds converged, according to the Louisville Courier Journal. A rally is planned for Monday, when lawmakers return to the Capitol and most teachers are on spring break, union officials said.
The action in Kentucky came as the latest flash point over pay and benefits for the nation’s teachers. In West Virginia,educators closed schools for nine days as they held out for a 5 percent raise, which they won for teachers and all state workers in March.
More recently Arizona teachers, among the nation’s lowest-paid, threatened to strike over raises and funding cuts to school programs. Oklahoma teachers are planning a walkout Monday if they don’t get what they want before then.
In Kentucky, the teacher absences touched off school closings in the state’s largest school systems, in Louisville and Lexington. School officials in Lexington said more than one-third of school employees did not show up Friday, and they did not have enough substitutes to compensate.
The Courier Journal found more than 20 counties announcing school closures Friday, as tensions flared. Kentucky has 173 school systems, located in 120 counties.
The state teachers’ union, the Kentucky Education Association, with a membership of 45,000, had not called on teachers to skip the workday but issued a sharply worded statement about the legislative action.
“This kind of backroom dealing is shameful,” the statement said. “Pitting government interests against the interests of current and future educators is cowardly.”
The walkout here in Kentucky is expected to continue tomorrow with a major protest in Frankfort with thousands of teachers coming in from across the state.
Arizona will most likely be next.
Hold on, folks. We're seeing something work this time.