Tens of thousands of teachers at more than 200 schools in Oklahoma went on strike Monday to protest low pay and subpar learning conditions for students.
About 30,000 teachers were expected at the state capitol in Oklahoma City, where they formed long picket lines.
Here's a look at the main crowd.
Many teachers in Oklahoma work second and third jobs to make ends meet. There were plenty of signs to that effect in the crowd.
Teachers who spoke to BuzzFeed News inside the Oklahoma State Capitol said they have been funding their classrooms out of their own pockets.
Many signs were creative...
... and some were damning.
Some of the signs carried by educators said Oklahoma teachers often leave to teach in neighboring states because the pay is higher there.
A 2017 University of Oklahoma study found that teachers who leave the state make an average of $19,000 more per year.
"We teach future doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs."
Students came out to show their support.
Jordan Carter, 13, Kennedy Fridia, 11, and Skyler Carter, 9, said they came to the capitol to support their teachers. The students said overcrowding is a problem, with as many as 30 kids per class, and there are often not enough desks for everyone to sit.
Other students told BuzzFeed News about classroom conditions that brought them out to protest — this art student said his class hasn't had blue paint for months.
Oklahoma teachers and students have been posting images of their outdated textbooks to help illustrate why people are protesting.
In addition to improved teacher pay, protesters showed up to demand raises for public school support staff, like janitors, cafeteria workers, and aides.
Signs (and memes) also called attention to the fact that designated funding for students in classrooms — for things like school supplies — remains among the lowest in the country.
Jason Lightel, 38, a high school English teacher from McAlester, Oklahoma, said he decided to strike when he learned the bill the Oklahoma legislature passed last week did not include increased funding for support staff. "It was the equivalent of a pizza night a month for them," he said of the allocated money.
"It's not just about us," a kindergarten teacher told BuzzFeed News.
The teachers were bused to Oklahoma City at dawn from all over the state.
Around 1 p.m. — more than six hours after the first teachers arrived — people continued to arrive to protest at the state capitol.
Some educators had gone on strike decades prior.
Hope Davis, a sophomore at Oklahoma public high school, spoke to the crowd during the rally. "Many refer to it as a historic bill," she said of the raise passed by legislators. "Many fail to realize that funding education should not be historical. It should be normal." Signs throughout the day said the same.
Also at the main rally, National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen García addressed the crowd and called on legislators to make real change for teachers and students.
Schools are preparing for classes to be closed for the entire week, as teachers say they'll be on strike until the state legislature provides more education funding.
On Monday afternoon, Oklahoma City Public Schools announced that schools would also be closed Tuesday due to the walkout.
Teachers and volunteers registered new voters – students who will turn eighteen by November. One registration worker said 50 new voters were registered.
Teachers in Kentucky also protested in their state capitol on Monday, demanding higher wages and calling on Governor Matt Bevin to veto a controversial bill passed last week that overhauls teacher pension plans.
More than 100 Kentucky school districts are on spring break this week, but more than a dozen other districts cancelled school on Monday so that teachers could travel to protest.
In Oklahoma, the walkout is technically a “wildcat” action, which means the strike was not authorized by union leaders. Oklahoma’s frontline workers instead organized for weeks online and in person, relying on a Facebook group of tens of thousands called “Oklahoma Teachers United.”
Thanks to years of austerity budgeting, Oklahoma teachers haven’t had an across-the-board raise in 10 years, while funding per pupil has been slashed by 28% since 2008.
Galvanized by the success of teachers in West Virginia, who won a 5% increase from lawmakers after a nine-day walkout, the Oklahoma teachers are asking for a $10,000 raise over the next three years, as well as increased investment in classroom budgets.
Many districts have been forced to go from five-day weeks to four in Oklahoma, to deal with the crisis of resources. Textbooks are hard to come by or out of date, and arts and music classes have been eliminated, while class sizes have swelled.
Pay in Oklahoma is currently the lowest in the nation, with teachers’ salaries beginning at just $31,600 for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree, a floor set by the state legislature.
Watch an earlier stream of interviews here:
Cora Lewis is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Cora Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ellie Hall is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ellie Hall at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.