Capitol Week In Review: Deadline For Lawmakers, Looming Teacher Walkout
OKLAHOMA CITY - Another busy week at the state Capitol, but little movement towards raising teacher pay to avert a looming walkout.
This was a deadline week for lawmakers, a week when they scrambled to have hundreds of bills heard or else those bills die. So, there wasn’t as much movement on teacher pay raises. And the deadline teachers imposed for a walkout is fast approaching.
Teachers say they want $10,000 raises and pay increases for support staff and state workers or they’re walking out April 2nd.
The Senate failed to pass a measure to give teachers raises.
“(I’m a) Little disappointed that we had an opportunity to give a significant raise to teachers, 12.7 percent,” said Senator Mike Schulz (R) President Pro Tempore.
Representative Emily Virgin (D) Democratic Caucus Chair said the Senate bill was just for show, and would have died in the House of Representatives.
“This was their way of saying we did something. But even of it had passed, like I said, it wouldn’t have passed the house and it wasn’t enough.”
Teacher Aaron Kaspereit of Harrah High School spent part of his spring break sitting on the floor of the state capitol talking with lawmakers and grading papers.
“For the most part, what it seems like to us, is that they don’t care. They don’t think we’re going to strike.”
The House of Representatives also presented its plan to give teachers massive raises based on the amount of time they spend in the classroom.
“When fully implemented, it will move Oklahoma from the back of the heap all the way up to 18th in the country in pay,” said Representative Michael Rogers (R) Tulsa.
The problem is, the House didn’t identify a way to pay for the raises and the teachers union immediately rejected the plan.
With all the financial scandals and mismanagement the state has seen in the past year, lawmakers passed a plan to create an office of accountability. The problem with that is you won’t be told what they find out.
“It would better to be called the office of no accountability. It creates 15 year-round high paying positions, puts them behind a cloak of secrecy,” said Representative David Perryman (D) Minority Floor Leader.
Lawmakers also passed a bill to allow casinos to use balls and dice instead of cards. But it doesn’t come without controversy.
“We are not changing if we should gamble in the state of Oklahoma. We are changing how we do that,” said Senator Stephanie Bice (R) Oklahoma City.
But Senator Paul Scott (R) Duncan countered, “We’re making an extremely addictive game even more attractive.”
Next week, lawmakers plan to continue working to avert a teacher walkout. But the one thing they apparently haven’t tried is sitting down Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate, with union leaders.
“It hasn’t been done yet,” said Alicia Priest of the Oklahoma Education Association. “We’re pushing that we all need to be in a room a plan that addresses all of our needs.”