Oklahoma Teacher Walkout: Week 2
TULSA, Okla. — A statewide teacher walkout is ending after stretching into a second week, according to the Oklahoma Education Association.
OEA president Alicia Priest announced on Thursday, April 12, that they will end the walkout and are calling for a shift in focus to continue pressuring lawmakers to increase education funding.
Some schools resumed classes before the announces was made, but several large districts remained closed. Many will stay closed through April 14 and will resume classes beginning Monday or Tuesday. We will update out list as plans are announced.
Previous Week 2 Coverage:
So far, Gov. Mary Fallin signed a $447 million plan that will give teachers a raise. The Oklahoma Education Association said the bill is not enough to meet the needs of Oklahoma schools.
On Thursday the Oklahoma Education Association released a graphic that shows 95% of their education funding requests for Year 1 is secured. Their demands in regards to teacher pay and education funding in Year 2 and 3 are not met.
After nearly five days of the walkout, the state Senate approved House Bill 1019xx, the "Amazon bill"; House Bill 3375, "ball and dice" bill; and House Bill 1212xx, the repeal of the hotel-hotel Tax (HB 1212xx).
Fallin signed the bills into law Tuesday.
The Oklahoma Education Association said the bills further neglected students, and encouraged people to file paperwork to run for office.
"Governor Fallin has spent years doing far too little for public education, so it's no surprise that she took measures to further neglect students today. The governor and lawmakers keep closing the door on revenue options when Oklahomans are asking for a better path forward. Filing for office starts Wednesday. Public education should be the issue this November. We need candidates who are worthy of our children."
Senators Nathan Dahm and Josh Brecheen hosted a press conference this week about their proposed changes to wind energy tax credits Monday.
WATCH: Oklahoma senators propose end to wind tax credits
Breechen said Oklahoma taxpayers pay $70 million in refundable tax credits to the wind industry.
Before Fallin signed the hotel-motel tax repeal, the Oklahoma Education Association put out a statement calling on her to veto it and for legislators to approve a bill “that closes the capital gains loophole.”
On Sunday, April 8, teachers and supporters rallied in Broken Arrow:
Later Sunday evening at the capitol, people gathered at a prayer vigil organized by Pastors for Oklahoma Kids. FOX23's Preston Jones was there for the vigil:
A former Owasso student who went on to play for the Green Bay Packers voiced his support for teachers as well.
Tuesday, teachers completed their 110-mile walk from Tulsa to the state capitol to join protesters there.
What You Need To Know:
The Oklahoma Education Association announced in early March that it would organize a walkout if legislators did not agree to a satisfactory education funding plan by April 1. In addition to a $10,000 teacher pay raise, the organization is seeking a raise for support employees, $200 million in public school funding and $255 million in health funding during the next two years.
What Have Lawmakers Done?
Both chambers of the Legislature passed a $447 million plan that was signed by Fallin on March 29. It included a tax on gas, diesel and tobacco and raised the gross production tax to 5 percent. It also included a $5 hotel-motel tax, but it was quickly repealed by house lawmakers and signed by the governor.
The repeal of the hotel-motel tax is expected to remove about $50 million in funding.
The Oklahoma Senate met in special session on Friday to consider HB 1019xx, the Marketplace Fairness Act or “Amazon bill,” as well as HB 1012xx. That bill passed and was sent to Fallin, who later signed it.
Fallin released a statement after the passage:
"When the governor's office receives the bills being heard today in the Senate, the governor will review them with her staff. This is her usual practice to check the language of the final version, and to ensure the bills satisfy legal and constitutional requirements."
The Marketplace Fairness Act is estimated to generate approximately $20 million and when added to growth revenue in the state budget, more than makes up for the hotel-motel tax.
The Senate passed HB 3375, the “ball and dice” bill. Fallin also signed it.
On Wednesday, three days into the walkout, House lawmakers passed HB1019xx. The law will require third-party sellers on the internet, such as Amazon, to pay state sales taxes. The funds would allegedly help the state's education funding.
Lawmakers estimate the law would bring in $20 million each year. The senate approved the bill on Friday, and Fallin signed it Monday.
Why Are Teachers Still Walking?
The Oklahoma Education Association said the plan signed by the governor is a “down payment on our children’s futures,” but they said that it didn’t meet the needs of students and educators. The package only raises about half the revenue of OEA’s proposal.
How Long Will The Walkout Last?
Many district leaders told FOX23 they plan to survey teachers daily to determine when schools will reopen.
WATCH: District leaders in Tulsa gave an update Monday
School officials explained how the walkout would affect Tulsa students.
What Can Students Do During The Walkout?
Several area churches and organizations announced plans to offer child care for a limited number of students during the walkout. The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club will offer free care at six Green Country locations.
Some school districts, including Tulsa and Broken Arrow, plan to offer meals to students who eat at specified lunch sites. Check with your child's district for additional information.
How Are Officials Reacting?
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister hailed the senate's actions on Friday:
"What we have seen at the Capitol this past week has been groundbreaking. Over the past several days, it has been my privilege to engage hundreds of teachers in face-to-face conversations and to witness firsthand their tireless advocacy to ensure that their students and classrooms have the resources for learning. On the heels of landmark legislation signed into law just last week, common education now has received an infusion of nearly $500 million in new revenue. I am grateful for the bipartisan efforts of legislators who have done the right thing to reverse a decade of funding challenges that failed to keep pace with student enrollment and need. The legislation passed this week is tremendous progress, but our students and their education will require continued investment and advocacy for years to come. Teachers, your stories have been heard at the Capitol and across the nation. These gains are the result of your fight for kids. I know your hearts are in the classroom. I am inspired by your years of dedication, humbled by your sacrifices and proud of your accomplishments."
Oklahoma State School Boards Association executive director Shawn Hime:
Today, the Senate's passage of more revenue puts schools in their strongest financial position in more than a decade. The revenue bills approved the last two weeks generate more than half a billion dollars in new funding for schools. Legislators clearly heard the voices of Oklahoma's teachers, parents and education advocates who said that continued investment in children, teachers and their schools is critical. The phenomenal advocacy of Oklahoma's teachers has created momentum to ensure that ongoing investment in education is the new normal and that those who want to represent Oklahomans at the state Capitol must support a long-term funding plan for competitive teacher pay and well-resourced classrooms. From every corner of the state, Oklahomans joined with teachers in demanding better for our children, and I'm grateful. My hope now is local communities will begin a serious conversation about the need for children to return to class so they can finish the school year strong and ensure all of the dedicated employees in our schools can continue to be paid.
Senate Democratic Leader John Sparks:
"This week we saw democracy in action at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Thousands of Oklahoma educators, students, parents, and concerned citizens came to the Capitol every day to advocate for education funding. The Senate Democratic Caucus is proud to stand with you. We know that you and your families have made tremendous personal sacrifices to be here. Your voices are being heard, but there is more work to be done. The Senate passed legislation today that will bring in more funding for education, but there are additional measures the legislature should pass, including a repeal of the capital gains tax deduction, with any necessary amendments. The Senate has already passed a capital gains bill with bipartisan support and the House should vote on it without any further delay. I encourage the education community to keep engaging with legislators. While there has been some progress, Oklahoma still needs sustainable revenue and a comprehensive plan to fund public education. Our students deserve better and the Senate Democratic Caucus will continue fighting for them."
Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Shulz, R-Altus:
"The Oklahoma Senate has shown repeatedly its commitment to students and teachers first by passing the largest teacher pay raise in state history and now by approving measures providing millions of dollars in new funding for Oklahoma classrooms. Increasing average teacher pay in Oklahoma to the second-highest in our region and putting more dollars into the classroom will help us retain and recruit quality, professional educators to help our students and our state succeed. As we move forward, the Senate stands committed to considering additional ways to put more dollars into our classrooms, as wells as reforms that best serve students, parents and teachers."
FOX23 will follow the walkout for its duration. Sign up for newsletters for updates sent to your inbox and download the FOX23 News app for breaking news updates.
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