and I’ve been in education for 10 years. I’ve hit rock bottom because it’s exhausting. I cut hair at home. I have cleaned houses. You know, the kids joke with the teachers
about being a hustler, but to be a teacher in Oklahoma you almost have to. This is Kily and Angela. Both are teachers at public schools in Oklahoma
City. Both are single mothers with three kids. And, like thousands of teachers across Oklahoma,
both are barely making it. This is how much money I have in the bank. 53 cents. I have a cut off notice. I have a past due phone and cable bill too. This kind of lifestyle is shockingly common
among Oklahoma teachers. And in 2018, they finally reached a breaking
point. We love children and we love to teach. It’s ingrained in us. It’s what we do. It’s who we are. And we’re not being compensated for it. And we’re not gonna be able to do it anymore. Oklahoma teachers are the lowest paid in the
nation by some measures, making an average salary of about $42,000. You could work at a gas station and make more. This came in the mail and it’s terrifying. And it is foreclosure paperwork on my house. I corresponded with Kily and Angela every
day for months and was shocked to see that two highly educated people with full-time
jobs could be so close to bankruptcy. I make $42,600 a year, and that’s supporting
me and my three children, and I can’t make it anymore. I’m currently one car payment behind two
loan payments behind. Last year at our school we had food pantry. We were sending as much home with the teachers
as we were with the students. I wanted to know why thousands of teachers
felt compelled to walk out of class on April 2nd. So I asked Kily and Angela to show me what
getting by on an Oklahoma teacher’s salary actually looks like. A government program called WIC helps Kily
pay for groceries. But it’s usually not enough, and she often
relies on family members and handouts to feed her kids. We got these boxes. They sent food home with the children and
they sent food home with the teachers. So I’ve got about a month’s worth of Saturday
afternoon lunch. Angela’s life is not too different. Despite the fact that she’s been teaching
for nearly 30 years, she only makes about $42,000 before taxes. To fill in the financial gap, she drives the
bus before and after school, tutors, sells quilts, and drives for Lyft. Her day usually begins around 5 am. I am walking out the door at 5:35. Yay, I’m going to be on time actually. Today, Angela’s going to Walmart before
her morning bus route to buy supplies for her classroom. Oh that’s cute. This will get us our butterflies and flowers. Now I have to grab some snacks because they
stay hungry. It’s pretty much common knowledge that teachers
often shell out their own money to pay for class supplies. And it’s not chump change. A 2016 report showed that teachers across
the U.S. pay an average of $500 a year on supplies, and that 10% of teachers spend more
than $1,000. That was an expensive trip. $45.64 that I just spent on my classroom in
one day. Teachers do get a small tax deduction for
out-of-pocket expenses, but it doesn’t even get close to what many are spending. $250. That’s all I can claim. I don’t know any teachers that only expense—
We spend that much in a month is what I’m trying to say. This is perhaps even more necessary for teachers
in Oklahoma, as the state is near the bottom in per-student spending. Education funding has dwindled over the years,
as Oklahoma’s republican-led congress has repeatedly slashed taxes for businesses and
top income earners. The latest round of budget cuts was so massive,
it forced 20% of public schools to switch to a four-day week. Our district has embraced the four-day week. Last year we were able to save $180,000. This isn’t the state’s only embarrassment. Oklahoma also has a significant teacher shortage,
as thousands have left for higher-paying positions in other states. In one survey, educators who left said they
made, on average, nearly $20,000 more than they did in Oklahoma. Even the state’s 2016 Teacher of the Year
moved away for better pay. I don’t know what it’s gonna take for
this state to wake up and realize that we have a serious, serious issue. We haven’t had a pay raise in 10 years, and
I’ve been in education for 10 years. So imagine going into the career that you
love and doing it for 10 years and never getting paid a dollar more than what you got paid
when you went in. Would you continue to do it? In a scramble to make up for the shortage,
many schools have brought in Emergency Certified teachers, or ‘Emergency Certs’. This issue has exploded in the last few years,
with a nearly 600 percent increase in emergency certifications issued since 2014. I have an aunt that was here this weekend
and she’s begging me to come to Texas. She’s like, ‘Kily I just got my first
paycheck and it’s twice what I was making in Oklahoma. You don’t have to martyr yourself. But if we all leave then who’s here for these
kids? More Emergency Certs? I don’t want to leave these children with
somebody that’s not certified to do what I do. I don’t want to leave these kids ‘cause
I love them. I don’t want to leave these kids ‘cause
I’ve been in this community for ten years. At this point, Kily is not only counting down
the days until the state-wide walkout, but she’s counting down the money left in her
bank account—literally to the penny. I’ve made my budget for the rest of the
week. $40 for a full tank of gas, $3 to $5 for grad school
parking… Kily just sold some extra stuff, and after
budgeting, she figures she has about $14 in spending money until payday. Over the next few days, Kily does everything
she can to stretch her last few bucks. So this is what we do to make our own soap
because we can’t afford Tide Pods. This mayonnaise with one tablespoon a piece
will do laundry for months and months and months to come. So this is me digging through change in the
car. At 7-Eleven. A teacher went in and is buying me a soda
because I am down to five bucks. Hopefully tonight for dinner my grandparents
are gonna feed the kids, and maybe one of my cohort members at grad school will bring
me something to eat. A day before payday, Kily is literally down
to this bag of change, which she brings to a Coinstar. That’s how much money I have until tomorrow—payday. Wow. I’m pushing for you guys. Thank you. Y’all deserve it for sure. I appreciate that more than anything. Should’a been a long time ago. Yup. At this point, the walkout is just a few days
away. The story is dominating the news and everybody
seems to have an opinion on it. Angela: Do you guys think we should continue
to walk out? We should pay em, ‘cause our teachers deserve
it. Angela: So do you think the teachers walking
out is the way to get the legislators… Oh yeah. If the teachers compromise, it’s not gonna
work. Angela: ‘Cause we don’t have enough— Angela: Yes. In a last ditch effort to avoid a strike,
Oklahoma legislators passed a small tax increase on cigarettes and gas, giving teachers a $6,000
raise. This was far from the $10,000 raise that educators
asked for, but it was still a huge deal, considering state lawmakers haven’t increased taxes
in nearly 30 years. You can’t call it a raise when it’s not a
raise. It’s not a raise. If you do the math, it would take $6,000 tomorrow
to bring me up to what I made in 2009, just for inflation. So how do you feel now that the walkout is
finally happening? I’ve been waiting on this like this. It excites me but it’s scary. I think the general public sees it as the
teachers are being greedy. No we’re not being greedy. We want to continue to be able to do what
we love. And if we don’t get this we can’t keep doing
it. I can’t keep doing it. I don’t want [intercom] sorry… I am so broken right now by the way things
are that if things don’t change I will leave. So I’m hopeful that they change so that I don’t
have to pursue a new career, but if they don’t change I will. What has kept you doing this for almost 30
years? Why are you still teaching and doing all of
these side jobs when you could just do something else? I don’t know anything else. This is my life. I love seeing that I really can make a difference
in kids’ lives. I taught high school for a long time. I had a group of boys. No other teacher could handle them in class. They were Seniors, they were done. They didn’t want to be there, but I worked
with them and I kept them in school and I got them graduated. And when I see that all of them, who could
have easily, easily gone the wrong way, one’s a nurse, a couple of them are working oil
field, but they’re grown adults with families and they’re contributing to society. Knowing that I played a role, it’s like OK,
that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s just what I’m supposed to be doing. I don’t want to leave. I wouldn’t be happy. I’ve had jobs where I made really good money. I owned my own hair salon before I got a teaching
degree. I’ve been a financial adviser. I’ve had money, but that didn’t- that didn’t
make me happy. But when you put me in a position where I
can’t even survive doing what I love, then I have to do something and I have to make
a change, because my children are important too. I’m slobbering all over myself. I’m flustered
now. I don’t want to leave. This is the singular defining moment for generations. We’re all in this together. We have to change. It is the day of the walkout. We’re about halfway to the Capitol. We’re about to pass the Governor’s mansion. The Governor’s mansion is up to our right! Say hi to Mary! Hi Mary! What up Mary! Give us money Mary! The first week of the walkout was, by many
accounts, a success. Tens of thousands of teachers and supporters
showed up, and the Capitol building was filled to capacity every day. This is the line to get in. Oh holy holy look at all those people. I’m a sub for 18 years. I have high schoolers making more than me
working at 7-Eleven after school. But as the week went on, more and more teachers
returned to school, as many districts rescinded their promise to pay teachers during the strike. One of these districts was Angela’s. I am headed to school, and I feel like a complete
and total traitor. However, I can’t afford to lose a day’s
pay. So I am going in against everything in me. We were told if we go march again, it will
be a breach of our contract. We cannot use leave because we wouldn’t
be sick, obviously. And this is not an emergency because it was
planned. So our district is the only one in central
Oklahoma City who will be in session tomorrow. Even with some teachers returning to class,
the walkout persisted. And Kily spent her days at the capitol. Being on the highway and seeing the signs
and hearing everybody hocking. Feel like for the first time the public, like,
cares and is behind us. Unfortunately, not everyone was so supportive. Teachers want more, but it’s kinda like
having a teenage kid that wants a better car. They come into this house and wanna act this
way. I’m not voting for another stinkin’ measure
when they’re acting the way they’re acting. I do not believe that I should have to pay
for your kids or somebody else’s kids with my taxes to go to school or give you a raise
with my taxes. Okay so it’s day 5 of the walkout. We got an email saying that we needed to put
in for leave. So I may have lost like $250, $275 today. Doesn’t matter I’m still here at the protest. I’ve got the phone plugged in here in the car… At this point, the walkout is phasing out,
and Kily is losing money every day she’s not at school. This is the thinnest crowd that I have seen
so far. What day are we on? Day 7? I’m supposed to be at work right now. But I went and signed in and signed out and
walked out. I teach students and teachers and neither
one of those in the building so what am I supposed to do all day? Oh wow. This is sad. I mean there’s still a crowd but not anything
like there was. I’m mad enough I had to get this on camera. Look. On day 10, the head of Oklahoma’s largest
teacher union announced that the walkout was over. Senate Republicans won’t budge an inch on
any more revenue for public education. She doesn’t speak for all of us. Two more days. We need two more days. We are going back to school Monday, April
16. I guess it really is over, because I can’t
afford to go for any more days than one day. Kily did go back for one more day. But on Tuesday April 17th, she finally returned
to school. The vibe here is stressed. I’ve had two people come to me and say,
‘I don’t know how to tell you this, but I won’t be here next year. I’ve accepted a job somewhere else.’ It’s just really sad. Everybody’s sad. I don’t know whether to stay and fight and
try to be part of something bigger and better or to try to leave and do better for my family. Even though the walkout effectively ended,
Kily has continued to protest at the capitol with a group of other teachers. I caught up with Angela to see how she was
feeling how everything went down. I was just so sad that this is what it came
to. And I felt almost disrespected by the comments
that were made by our Governor and by some of the legislators and stuff. All year long, we supported you. And now you’re gonna come here and act like
this after you got a raise. Go right ahead, be pissed at me if you want to. This is the thing that really left me scratching
my head about Oklahoma. There seems to be overwhelming support across
the political spectrum for funding public education. Yet, voters are electing representatives who
don’t stand for those values. I asked a couple of former candidates for
public office about the reason behind this disconnect. There are a lot of single-issue voters out
there and I was up against this a lot when I was out knocking doors. So I would, I would introduce myself – ‘I’m
running for State Senate in our district, and I think what’s happening in public education
in our state is criminal.’ I was shocked at how often the conversation
devolved to, are you pro-life or pro-choice? Like, that was it. Like people were making their decisions based
on that. If you’re a teacher and you’re pretty Evangelical,
on Sunday mornings at church you’re basically being told you can’t vote for a Democrat because
they’re going to, you know, make gay marriage the standard, they’re going to let transgender
people use whatever bathroom they want. Like these are the kind of scare tactics that
they use and I don’t say it lightly. When I was campaigning this is the stuff that
would come out of these folks’ mouths. You know, I’d knock on a door and be like,
‘I’m concerned about education in our state. What are you concerned about? Oh I’m concerned about the bathroom issue,
and I’m like do our children have bathrooms? Because they don’t have teachers or books.’ Have you ever voted for someone who isn’t
pro-education? Yeah, I have. I have. And ones that I probably should have looked
at myself instead of listening— Not doing my own investigation has been my— Yeah I
have. I mean that’s really my next step is to be
more involved and be more aware of the legislative process. How did you feel having to give up after so
many days of protesting? I was hurt. I was angry. I cried. I felt like we’d lost. I feel like in November there’s going to be
an upheaval. I feel like we’re gonna clear house and they’re
not gonna see it coming. I don’t think they realize how far and wide
this goes, and that it’s not just Oklahoma. Like I still see it. Like I still see it worldwide. I don’t think they realize that this really is
a movement, and that we’re not done.