TULSA, Okla. — For the superintendent of this city’s public schools, the signs that her teachers are struggling can be found everywhere.

At a local restaurant, it was a teacher who served Deborah Gist recently. At the Reasor’s grocery, there’s sometimes a teacher behind the register. And then there was the Uber vehicle that the school district chief hailed to catch an early morning flight: A teacher sat behind the wheel, trying to earn some money before heading to the classroom. There was a stack of student journals on the passenger seat.

“It’s just so wrong that it just hurts my heart,” said Gist, who has been superintendent since 2015.

Oklahoma teachers are among the nation’s lowest paid, and despite the governor and lawmakers approving a $6,100 raise this week, educators pledge to walk out Monday if their full demands – including restoration of budget cuts – are not met.

For a decade, little has been done to address the plight of the state’s teachers. It is a situation that has forced many to take second jobs, rely on food pantries and donate their plasma to pay the bills.

The revolt in Oklahoma comes amid a wave of teacher protests that have no recent parallel in the United States. In West Virginia, educators stayed out for nine tense days before winning a pay raise. In Arizona, teachers are threatening to strike unless the state gives them a 20 percent salary increase. In Kentucky, educators shut down at least 20 school systems Friday as they converged on the state capitol to protest pension reforms. “Don’t make us go West Virginia on you,” one protester’s sign read.

Earlier this year, educators in Oklahoma turned heartbroken – and desperate – as the Legislature failed to boost their salaries. Then, about 1,000 miles to the east, West Virginia’s teachers walked off the job, and leveraged a 5 percent raise after shutting down schools. Suddenly, whispers about the possibility of a strike in Oklahoma grew to a full-throated roar, even as teachers agonized over whether they should leave their students behind.

“We had been talking about it forever,” said Randi Cowan, a third-grade teacher in Tulsa who earned $33,746 last year and lives in a home built by Habitat for Humanity. “But then somebody else did it and … it just ignited our fire.”

As in West Virginia, educators in Oklahoma have reached a breaking point, fed up with stagnant wages and cuts to education funding. The idea of a walkout began to gain traction in mid-February after a proposed salary increase failed to win enough support among lawmakers. A superintendent circulated a petition asking colleagues if they would support a teacher walkout.

Then a 25-year-old social studies teacher, inspired by what happened in West Virginia, began a Facebook group titled “Oklahoma Teacher Walkout – The Time is Now!” It has ballooned to 70,000 members, including educators from Oklahoma and West Virginia and supportive parents.

Educators – backed by the state’s teachers unions – demanded a $10,000 raise for themselves and a $5,000 raise for support personnel. They are also asking the state to restore budget cuts and boost spending on schools by $200 million over three years. If they do not get what they want by Monday, teachers in about 140 school districts – including some of the state’s largest –- plan to walk off the job.

In 2016, Oklahoma ranked 49th in teacher pay – lower even than West Virginia, which was 48th. The average compensation package of an Oklahoma teacher was $45,276 a year, according to the National Education Association, a figure that includes a high-priced health plan and other benefits. That’s far less than educators in neighboring states, making it difficult – for many districts, impossible – to find and keep qualified teachers.

Oklahoma’s 2016 teacher of the year, Shawn Sheehan, decamped for Texas last year, joining many other teachers who sought higher-paying jobs.

Robert Bohn, an agriculture teacher in the small town of Cement, said he could make $20,000 more annually teaching in Texas. He pointed down the two-lane highway. “Texas is just an hour that way,” Bohn said.

The state’s funding crisis began at least a decade ago when the recession hit, leading lawmakers to take a cleaver to education spending. Even after the state’s economy recovered, long-standing tax cuts and plunging oil prices constrained state revenue and depleted education funding. In this deeply conservative state, lawmakers have resisted raising taxes – and doing so requires a three-quarters majority of the legislature.

Adjusted for inflation, the amount the state spends per student has fallen nearly 30 percent over the past decade, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The consequences are evident across the state.

Virginia Ayers, a sixth-grade teacher at a Tulsa elementary school with many students from low-income families, has 36 youngsters in her class. In rural Cement, school system leaders could no longer afford to keep the lights on five days a week, so they cut the academic week to four days. It’s not the only district: Last year, 96 had four-day school weeks.

In Bartlesville, Superintendent Chuck McCauley, desperate for a math teacher, hired a candidate with a physical education degree and no classroom experience. “We’re literally hiring people right now that we would not have even interviewed 10 years ago,” McCauley said.

Paltry pay has taken an obvious toll on the lives of teachers. Some live paycheck to paycheck and face eviction because they cannot keep up with the bills. Struggling for survival, many have put off saving for retirement and emergencies. One teacher, a single mother of two young children, lived with her mother and shared a bed with her youngsters because she could not afford rent. Her own children were enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides coverage to families with modest incomes, and she made so little that she qualified for a Habitat for Humanity home.

Ayers took out a high-interest payday loan for a $1,300 car repair. But she could not afford loan payments and groceries, so to feed herself, she began lining up at a plasma center twice a week, earning $20 to $40 for each donation. It made her lethargic in the classroom.

“It left me tired most of the time,” said Ayers, who also developed shingles.

She once had to turn to a church for help paying a utility bill. There, she caught a glimpse of some of her students in an after-school program.