The Oklahoma teacher walkout and educators’ demands for more school funding dominates the news. It’s unclear if lawmakers are willing to meet those demands and quell daily protests. One lingering question: If schools get more money, what happens to other state agencies and workers who need funding, too?
Governor Mary Fallin signed a teacher pay raise into law on Thursday, giving educators their first state-funded salary boost in 10 years. On average, they’ll get about $6,000, but many of them are still walking out of their classrooms on Monday.
After months of gridlock and failed deal-making, the Oklahoma House and Senate have passed a nearly $450 million tax package designed to fund raises for teachers and avoid statewide school closures.
Gov. Mary Fallin said she’ll sign the tax package, which fell short of teachers’ demands. Educators still plan to march at the Capitol April 2 to pressure lawmakers to spend more on schools and public employees and continue a debate that has highlighted growing gaps and frustrations over taxes and government.
In a late-night attempt to stave off a statewide teacher walkout, the Oklahoma House passed a series of bills that gives teachers a $5,000 to $7,000 raise – depending on their experience.
The package of bills also raises pay for school support staff and state employees, however it’s not clear if the legislation – as written – is enough to keep teachers from descending on the Capitol on April 2nd.
In the first public press conference since talk of a statewide teacher walkout began, the largest Oklahoma teachers union laid out their demands for the state legislature.
Many Oklahoma educators are fed up with state lawmakers who have promised teacher pay raises for years but have failed to actually deliver. At their wits end, these teachers are now planning to walk out of their classrooms to push legislators to act.
The state’s largest teachers union, the Oklahoma Education Association, says they will announce the details of a statewide teacher walkout on Thursday.
Alicia Priest, the president of the OEA, says years of failed attempts by the legislature to increase education funding and teacher pay have forced the organization to consider the walkout.
Oklahoma lawmakers enacted legislation in 2015 that lets school employees, including teachers, carry guns on campus. Okay Public Schools, near Tahlequah, appears to be the only district in the state that uses the law to arm its staff.
Superintendent Pete Hiseley did not work for the district in 2015 when the Okay Public School Board agreed to let school employees carry guns.
“I can’t speak for all the reasons that this policy was put in place,” he said, “I can only speculate it was for the betterment and protection of our students and our staff.”
When President Donald Trump ordered an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program last September, he put 700,000 immigrants’ futures in jeopardy.
The Tulsa Race Riots lasted 2 days. Thirty-five blocks of black neighborhoods were destroyed and at least 39 people died. Historians now agree it was among the worst episodes of racial violence in U.S. History. However, State Senator Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, says many Oklahoma teachers often brush over the topic, or teach it incorrectly. He hopes a new Tulsa Race Riot curriculum can change that.