Mike Elk on Democracy Now! Talks About How Democratic School Boards are Helping Oklahoma Strike


Earlier today, Payday Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk appeared on Democracy Now.

“In some of these school districts, the Democratic superintendents of the schools are actually quite supportive, because of how bad the funding cuts are,” Elk told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now this morning.

“My colleague and I, Karina Moreno, the brilliant public administration professor at Long Island-Brooklyn, crunched the numbers. And Oklahoma has cut more from its state budget since 2009 than any other state in the country,” said Elk. “It has one of the lowest tax rates on oil and natural gas. The tax rate is effective 3 percent tax rate on oil and natural gas production. In comparison, Texas, neighboring Texas, which pays its teachers a starting salary of $18,000 more, taxes oil and natural gas at an effective rate of 8 percent.”

Elk predicted to Goodman that the strike will go on for at least a week or two more.

“The superintendent in Tulsa, where I’m at, just announced that she would close schools for an entire week,” said Elk. “And she’s appearing later today, the superintendent of Tulsa, at a rally to kick off a 123-mile march from Tulsa to Oklahoma City, that’s expected to take a week. So this strike here will go on for a while, and it looks like the strike in Kentucky will go on for some time, too. And it’s going to be incredible to see what kind of ripple effect this has.”

Elk predicted that the strikes were the sign of a new era.

“I think we’re getting into a new era here. People are upset with the war on teachers. You know, we’ve seen students walk out over Donald Trump’s repeal of DACA. We’ve seen students walk out over gun violence. We’re seeing teachers walk out now,” Elk told Goodman.

“In the state of Oklahoma, as well as in Kentucky, we’re seeing a lot of local school boards being very supportive of folks walking out,” said Elk. “So it’s no longer a teachers’ union versus the school board, or teachers’ union versus the students. It’s really students, teachers and school boards coming together against some of these Republican-dominated state legislatures.”

Watch the full interview and read the transcript here. 

About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter who covered everything from Lula & the Brazilian labor movement to major league baseball. He spent years covering union organizing in the South for The Guardian and was labeled by the New York Times as an "abrasive gadfly" for exposing within the labor movement. Raised in a UE union family in Pittsburgh, Elk was illegally for union organizing at Politico in 2015 and used his NLRB settlement to start the crowd-funded Payday Report. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and is fluent in both Pittsburghese and Portuguese, which he learned when attending journalism school at PUC-Rio de Janerio. Email: [email protected]

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