Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
 / Updated 
By Elizabeth Chuck

Invigorated by cheers from passersby, donations of pizza and water, and the determination to increase education funding in their state, about 100 Oklahoma teachers on Thursday continued their 110-mile march from Tulsa to the state Capitol.

The trek is expected to take a week, including rest stops, and comes during an extraordinary statewide teacher walkout.

Since Monday, thousands of Oklahoma teachers have staged walkouts to pressure lawmakers to increase funding for their classrooms, as well as raise teacher wages.

Legislation by the governor last week granted them a pay bump, but at the Capitol building and beyond, tens of thousands of teachers have continued to protest in the hopes of getting more funding for their students, who they say desperately need new textbooks and better classroom technology.

On Wednesday morning, the group of marchers in Tulsa gathered outside Webster High School and walked along Route 66 to kick off their 110-mile journey to Oklahoma City. Heather Cody, a third-grade teacher in Tulsa and an organizer of the march, said Wednesday's 18-mile leg was "physically and mentally exhausting" — but said the support they got along the way was overwhelming.

"People standing outside their driveways with candy, kids that are out of school waving signs for us," Cody said, speaking by phone to NBC News on Thursday from Kellyville High School, where the group slept overnight.

"We even had an anonymous donor from Georgia send 20 pizzas over," she said. "We had another company, a port-a-potty company, call me, and they're now dropping port-a-potties along the route."

"It’s crazy to think that all of these people have our backs but a certain 150 don’t down in the Capitol."

"It’s crazy to think that all of these people have our backs but a certain 150 don’t down in the Capitol," she added. "Who are your constituents and who are you listening to?"

Last week, Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation awarding Oklahoma's teachers 15 to 18 percent salary increases. But that isn't enough for the educators, who say there also needs to be an increase in funding for students, who use crumbling, outdated textbooks, sit in broken desks, and are in overcrowded classes.

Oklahoma ranks 47th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in public school revenue per student, and its average teacher salary of $45,276 ranked 49th before the latest raises, according to the National Education Association.

The teachers are still seeking a bigger raise for themselves — Cody, a single mother to a three-year-old, said she is in dire need of a bigger paycheck — but the focus now is on funding for their students.

"I keep telling everybody, if your teachers are willing to walk 110 miles for their students, what is the Oklahoma legislature willing to do for the students of Oklahoma?" Cody asked. "These people are giving up a week of their life."

Many schools in Oklahoma this week have been closed as teachers have held walkouts. Some schools, including Tulsa public schools, remained closed on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Fallin called on teachers to return to their classrooms, a day after she angered many by arguing that teachers were out-of-bounds for continuing their walkout even after being granted a raise.

"Teachers want more, but it's kind of like a teenage kid who wants a better car," Fallin told CBS News.

The protests in Oklahoma were inspired by recent ones in West Virginia, another Republican state, where a nine-day strike led to a 5 percent raise for teachers.

Kentucky has also had teacher walkouts: On Monday, every public school in Kentucky closed when teachers gathered at the state Capitol to protest a pension overhaul bill that Republican lawmakers passed last week. About two dozen schools in two Kentucky counties were still closed Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, where the average teacher pay is 43rd in the nation at about $47,000 a year, according to the National Education Association, educators are also mobilizing.

Last week, about 2,500 teachers rallied at the Arizona state Capitol demanding a 20 percent raise. On Wednesday, Arizona teachers, wearing red, held a "walk-in" where they held up protest signs and walked into their schools alongside those in the community who support their demands, reported NBC affiliate 12 News in Phoenix.

The Oklahoma teachers say they will continue their walkouts until legislators give them the increases they are seeking.