As Oklahoma teachers prepare to continue the statewide walkout for a third day, state lawmakers have rejected calls to pass additional revenue-raising measures to fund education.
Last week, the state legislature passed a historic tax increase that allowed a $6,100 pay raise for teachers and $50 million for education funding. The measure was an attempt to avert a statewide walkout that had been building for a month, but teachers said it wasn’t enough. They had called for a $10,000 pay raise over three years and $200 million in education funding.
Now, the Oklahoma Education Association has said it doesn’t have a specific dollar figure in mind to end the walkout, but “members need to feel confident the legislature ... has found revenue sources to restore 10 years of education funding cuts.”
The union has said the walkout will go on indefinitely, until teachers decide to return to their classrooms. A big factor in that decision, however, is school districts’ willingness to continue to close schools. Some district leaders have said they would just close for a day or two or through the end of this week. However, the superintendent of the Tulsa school district, one of the largest in the state, has said she is prepared to close schools for however long teachers will be out.
Oklahoman reporter Ben Felder wrote that “Tuesday’s crowd may have been smaller than Monday, but not by much.” About 200 districts closed on Monday.
But teachers are not garnering significant legislative support. One Republican representative said on Facebook Live that he was “not voting for another stinkin’ measure when they’re actin’ the way they’re actin’.”
“You’re losing support of people who supported you all year long,” said the representative, Kevin McDugle. “Now you’re going to come here and act like this after you got a raise?”
According to the Oklahoman, Democrats in the state house tried to get legislators to hear a bill that would have generated $70-$100 million in revenue, and a bill that would have given retired teachers a cost-of-living pension increase of 4 percent. The house rejected the motion to hear those bills.
Gov. Mary Fallin said in a statement on Monday that the state is “only able to do what our budget allows.” The legislature already passed “significant revenue-raising measures” to make the pay raise possible, Fallin noted, and there are other state entities that need funding, too.
She met with teachers today at the state capitol, tweeting that she looks forward to “continuing talks with legislative leaders and teachers as we develop a positive path for education forward.”
Glad to have the chance to talk today with teachers from the Chisholm School District in Garfield County. Pleased that legislators last week came together to approve, and I was happy to sign, the largest teacher pay increase in OK’s history. pic.twitter.com/kOJKKkuEFJ
-- Governor Mary Fallin (@GovMaryFallin) April 3, 2018
Many teachers in the state are not backing down. On Wednesday, teachers will begin a 110-mile walk from Tulsa to the state capitol. More than 125 people have signed up to participate in the march, including the Tulsa superintendent. The educators will arrive at the capitol April 10, averaging about five miles a day. They will sleep in high schools overnight.
Images: Teachers and supporters of increased education funding rally on the first and second floor rotundas of the state capitol on April 3, during the second day of a walkout by Oklahoma teachers. —Nate Billings/The Oklahoman via AP
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.