'Serve the Students': Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Slams Striking Oklahoma Teachers

While speaking in Dallas last week, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rebuked striking Oklahoma teachers, opining that they should return to the classroom and "serve the students that are there to be served." The teachers, who number in the tens of thousands, are protesting funding cuts and teacher pay.

"I think we need to stay focused on what's right for kids," DeVos said, according to The Dallas Morning News. "And I hope that adults would keep adult disagreements and disputes in a separate place, and serve the students that are there to be served."

As of Monday, students in several Oklahoma districts have been out of class for five days, with nary a resolution in sight. The protest started in an effort to boost teacher pay, but soon transformed into a more comprehensive strike that demanded more funding for school programs.

Teachers in that state receive an average salary of $42,460 per year, among the lowest rates in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Educators are currently pushing for a 10 percent pay bump over three years, as well as a $5,000 pay hike for support staff over the same period.

DeVos isn't the only one coming out against the teachers. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, a Republican who signed a bill authorizing a $6,100 pay bump just before the strike, compared the educators to "teenagers" who wanted a new car. Republican state Rep. Kevin McDugle said he'll hold off voting on education measures until teachers return to the classrooms.

"You're losing support of people who supported you all year long," McDugle said on Facebook live. "Now you're going to come here and act like this after you got a raise?

"I'm not voting for another stinking measure when they're acting the way they're acting," McDugle continued. The state is a conservative stronghold, with more than 65.3 percent of voters casting a ballot for President Donald Trump in 2016.

The massive teacher strike mirrors the successful one held in West Virginia in February, where teachers successfully pushed for a 5 percent pay hike. DeVos expressed similar sentiments then, as well. There have also been teacher walkouts in Kentucky and Arizona.

It¹s now day 4 of #WVTeacherStrike. Whether you believe good teachers deserve better pay – I do – and/or states should be fiscally responsible – I do – we should all agree kids should not suffer for adult squabbles

— Secretary Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) February 27, 2018

DeVos, who has never been an educator herself, has repeatedly sparred with teachers since Congress approved her controversial nomination by a razor-thin margin in February 2017. The Michigan native has attempted to assuage fears that she is "public enemy No. 1," as some teachers unions have stated, although her comments comparing education to "food trucks" and blundering crucial interviews haven't helped her win over educators or their unions.

Throughout the criticism, the former Michigan Republican Party Chair has remained resolute.

"I am committed to transforming our education system into the best in the world," DeVos said upon receiving her nomination, vowing to "make American schools great again."