Published: Sat, March 31, 2018
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

School's out: Stillwater taking day-to-day approach on walkout

School's out: Stillwater taking day-to-day approach on walkout

After months of gridlock and failed deal-making, the Oklahoma House and Senate have passed a almost $450 million tax package created to fund raises for teachers and avoid statewide school closures.

In Oklahoma, the tax hikes on cigarettes, fuel, and oil and gas production will be enough for raises averaging about $6,100 annually, as well as funding boosts for schools, support personnel, and state workers. It is created to generate about $450 million for lawmakers to spend.

After the Senate passed the bill Wednesday night, OEA President Alicia Priest called the sham a "great victory", while acknowledging "it might not be everything that we want".

Oklahoma teachers have reacted with disgust and anger over the pay offer and the school-funding bill signed into law by Republican Governor Mary Fallin Thursday afternoon.

Oklahoma teachers, who are among the lowest paid in the nation, haven't seen an across-the-board raise in a decade and many teachers have been leaving the state for better pay in neighboring states. Teachers will receive a $6,100 pay raise on average in the upcoming school year. The West Virginia strike kept the state's schools closed for nine consecutive school days and continued after lawmakers passed a one-time five percent raise, with teachers insisting that all their demands be met. "I think everybody wanted teachers to have a pay raise, but now they're saying, 'Why are they walking out now?' If you walk now, it could present a very different image".

After the vote, Fallin said she planned to hold a bill "signing party" Thursday.

After a historic raise is approved by the Oklahoma House and Senate, almost 200 teachers across the district gathered to discuss their next plan of action.

Interest in the Facebook page, called Oklahoma Teacher Walkout - The Is Now!, quickly attracted members over the past month, Morejon told ThinkProgress in an interview last week. Teachers have not had a raise in a decade even as they have borne higher out-of-pocket costs for health care and pensions.

Aware of the deep opposition among teachers, Priest added, "I know you may be disappointed like me that the legislature left money on the table". Oklahoma teachers say it's not enough, however, and they still plan to strike next week. The reforms were funded by tax increases, which many Oklahomans were not happy about.

About 25 districts in the KTEN viewing area have said they will close their doors to students on April 2 as teachers travel to the State Capitol to lobby for higher wages.

Folks said the Legislature has plenty of money or additional taxes that could be levied to fund education.

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". "We can get a better deal.' So I held out", said state Sen.

What started in West Virginia has spread to Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona.

Like in Kansas, Oklahoma's tax cuts and deregulation spree didn't have the desired effect on the economy.

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