Schools may close if teachers don't get raise
If the Oklahoma Legislature fails to adequately invest in education this session, educators and communities are showing support for school closures to force lawmakers to act. The bottom line, they say, is that it's about students.
A recent Oklahoma Education Association online survey garnered more than 10,000 responses from teachers, parents, students and community members, resulting in nearly 80 percent supporting those school closures if needed, said Alicia Priest, the OEA president and a Spanish teacher from Yukon.
"The end goal is not a teacher walk-out, it is funding for education," Priest said.
On Thursday at 1 p.m., the OEA will hold a press conference announcing a detailed package to explain the "revenues needed and the funding stream we would like the Legislature to use to fund education and core services," Priest said. The conference will be streamed online through Facebook, Oklahoma Education Association, and will be held at OEA Headquarters, 323 E. Madison, Oklahoma City.
OEA's plan is called "Together We're Stronger," and seeks a $10,000 pay raise for Oklahoma teachers over three years, a cost-of living adjustment for retirees and the restoration of funds for education and core government services, Priest said, explaining that the Legislature has refused to hear three bills already the certified teacher bill, and two involving pay raises.
One bill, the cost of living increase for retired educators, did pass through committee, but "House leadership sent it back to committee to give a small stipend instead of an 8 percent cost of living adjustment," she said.
Some have been talking about walking out of their schools on April 2, but the OEA, which has been working with a coalition of community members, parents and school boards from all over the state, has another plan.
"There are grass root groups pushing for April 2. What we are pushing for is to ramp up pressure on the Legislature and then work with the districts to close schools" if the Legislature doesn't respond to the pressure, Priest said.
"It is not a strike. We don't strike against the Legislature. We are look at closing schools down to march at the Capitol," she said. Superintendents from across the state have been included in the meetings. "Some districts, frankly, said they will never close down school," while others said they would close down right now.
Arlene Cudd, president of the Professional Educators' Association of Lawton (PEAL) and a Lawton Public Schools teacher, said she believes that Comanche County would support a plan to walk out.
"Comanche County was the only county to approve House Bill 779," which two years ago proposed to give each teacher in the state a $5,000 raise, Cudd said. The bill failed in a statewide election.