Governor Signs Teacher Pay Raise Bill, Some Educators Are Still Walking Out
31 March 2018, 07:37 | Isaac Mcdaniel
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Governor Mary Fallin signed House Bill 1010XX into law today, which was described as "the largest teacher pay raise in the history of the state".
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The OEA is still calling for a statewide walkout on Monday, arguing that lawmakers already are working to repeal the lodging tax, which generates almost $50 million for funding.
"I think if we could get the pay raise for the teachers, we will have a better education system throughout Oklahoma and we could see the repercussions throughout the state", said Chris Brink, a senior at Ryan High School. Amid a furious, last-minute lobbying effort by the hospitality industry, House and Senate leaders agreed to pass a separate measure to repeal the $5-per-night hotel and motel tax that was projected to raise about $45 million.
But the teachers - some of them from 91 districts that have resorted to four-day school weeks to save money - that still plan to walk out of their classrooms on Monday say they're not satisfied with the tax package lawmakers passed. But OEA said the bills passed - which give teacher an average $6,100 pay raise, $1,250 to support staff and up to $2,000 for state employees annually - aren't enough to prevent a walkout.
"It is completely about the students - even the teacher pay raise is about students", Priest said.
Since teachers took to social media threatening a walkout, lawmakers offered a small raise.
Oklahoma teachers are fighting for more than raises for teachers.
OEA leaders say teachers are grateful for the pay increases approved by the Legislature, but they were never more concerned about themselves than they are about the devastating effects of deep state funding cuts since 2009 on students.
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Cameron school staff also posted a notice to Facebook, stating that although teachers are encouraged by the work legislators have done, "We feel that the current plan does not place enough emphasis on one of the most important issues, which is the funding of our students".
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"Lawmakers have left funding on the table that could be used immediately to help Oklahoma students", Priest said. "We have classrooms that have ceiling tiles missing from rain", McElhany said.
Cobb reported Friday that 93 percent of about 1,000 teachers and other workers he polled said they wanted to walk out on Monday and 83 percent "thought we should stay out of school beyond Monday".
"If overwhelmingly your constituents are telling you, 'I want this, ' it's your job to represent them", he said.
From the very beginning, the struggle in Oklahoma, as in West Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona and other states, has been initiated by rank-and-file educators sick of decades of union-backed concessions and complicity in budget cutting.
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