Published: Mon, April 09, 2018
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Striking Oklahoma Teachers Share Their Demands

Striking Oklahoma Teachers Share Their Demands

The job action comes after a West Virginia strike last month ended with a pay raise and as teachers in other states grow increasingly angry over stagnating wages are consider walk-outs.

But David Duvall, the executive director of the state's largest teachers' union, the Oklahoma Education Association, said late Thursday he didn't think the two bills would be enough to keep the teacher walkout from stretching into next week.

The state ranks 49th in the nation in teacher salaries, according to the National Education Association, in a list that includes Washington, D.C. Only Mississippi and South Dakota rank lower than Oklahoma.

The teachers vowed not to end their strike until the state passed senate bill 1086, which would close a loophole in the state's capital gains tax and raise an estimated $100m for classroom resources.

As a effect of low pay at home and better opportunities across state lines, Oklahoma is grappling with a teacher shortage that has forced some school districts to cut curricula, go to a four-day school week and deploy almost 2,000 emergency-certified instructors as a stopgap measure. Senate leaders are saying it will not add any income to this year's education funding but Priest, speaking at the news conference, said it would help.

However, not everyone agrees with those terms.

"The takeaway is, regardless of what the OEA says, if we get that funding, Bartlesville is back in school", said Superintendent Chuck McCauley. However, four teachers in the Western Heights district, including the former head of the high school English department, resigned this week after the school board voted to limit support for a teacher walkout, reports The Oklahoman's Tim Willert.

School districts have largely supported teachers by closing school. The House passed HB 1019xx, levying the same tax on those vendors, on Thursday. It would affect purchases made through sites like Amazon, when the seller is someone other than Amazon.


State Sen. Mike Schulz, left, R-Altus, President Pro Tempore of the Senate, speaks next to Sen.

Ultimately, the governor signed legislation last week granting teachers pay raises of about $6,100, or 15 to 18 percent, as well as tens of millions of new dollars for public schools.

When you include the third-party internet sales tax that is expected to generate another $20 million for schools, that adds up to over $70 million in new education spending (not counting the teacher pay raises), with almost half earmarked for textbooks or other curriculum resources.

Meanwhile, thousands of teachers, students and their supporters thronged the state Capitol for a fifth day, packing the hallways and chanting in the rotundas. "Because of the educators, parents and students who have taken to the Capitol this past week, the new funding for Oklahoma's students almost doubled".

Brian Graham, a single father with two elementary-age children in the Moore School District, has been dropping his kids off at their grandmothers' homes.

"I don't see her handling this", Smith said. "I'm a single dad working full time".

"We just want to make sure that they are going to fix the problem and not dismantle it the minute we leave", said Lindsay Burkhalter, a fourth-grade teacher in Ponca City, about 105 miles (170 km) north of Oklahoma City. "I know some single moms that are really getting some flak at work".

However, the OEA also criticized the repeal of a recently passed $47m hotel and motel tax, which had been slated to boost education funding, as a sign of bad-faith bargaining by Republican leadership. Many say they are exhausted but energized by the support they have received.

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