Oklahoma lawmakers scramble to avert teacher walkout

Oklahoma teachers were inspired by West Virginia, another red state where a 9-day strike led to 5-percent teacher raises.

A starting teacher in Oklahoma makes $31,600, and the average teacher salary ranks 49th among the states and District of Columbia, according to the most recent statistics from the National Education Association.

The state's largest teacher union 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.

While this is major progress, this investment alone will not undo a decade of neglect.

"This package doesn't overcome shortfall caused by four-day weeks and overcrowded classrooms that deprive kids of the one-on-one attention they need. It's not enough", she continued. "We must continue to push for more annual funding for our schools to reduce class size and restore more of the 28 percent of funds they cut from education over the last decade".

Oklahoma teachers had vowed to walk out of the classroom en masse beginning Monday, April 2 if the legislature didn't take action to increase their long-stagnant pay, which is among the lowest in the nation.

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On Monday, the House approved a series of tax increases that would raise an estimated $447 million to pay for a salary hike for teachers, school support personnel and state employees. For more than 15 months, the Senate has worked tirelessly to fund a significant teacher pay raise.

The Senate also advanced HB 1011xx, which provides an additional $84.3 million for teacher pay by making changes to the state income tax code.

"What yesterday looked like a positive step forward and a historic down payment on our children's future now hangs in the balance as the legislature dismantles the funding needed to solve this crisis they created in the first place", Priest said. Certainly the teachers had reached the end of their patience, and I can understand and sympathize with that.

When adjusted for inflation, the center's report shows a almost 28 percent reduction over the past 10 years.

In Arizona, thousands of teachers and supporters wearing red swarmed the state Capitol on Wednesday, calling for higher pay and better education funding under what they called #REDforED. "They may be saying 'thank you'". This movement, fueled by the courageous acts of teachers, parents, bus drivers, paraprofessionals, custodians, and community members has forced this legislature to finally act.

State Sen. John Kavanagh, the Appropriations Committee chairman, told KNXV that tax increases to pay for K-12 education are off the table, as voters have opposed the idea in the past.

  • Sonia Alvarado