OEA Unveils $905.7 Million Plan To Avoid Teacher Walkout
OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) is presenting a plan, they say, will fund teachers raises and avert a walkout. It’s really nothing new. In fact, it’s a collection of old ideas from failed plans pulled together into one big, $905-million tax increase.
“Actually, this was relatively easy to put together cobbling together ideas that have already been out there,” said David DuVall of the Oklahoma Education Association. “What we lack is the political will.”
And it’s that lack of political will over the years that teachers say, got us to this point in the first place.
The OEA’s plan includes an increase in the gasoline and tobacco taxes; an alcohol tax; changes in income tax deductions, and an increase in the tax on oil and natural gas production called gross production from two percent to five percent.
The OEA says that would pay for $6,000 raises for teachers this year, plus raises for support staff and state workers.
But time is running out.
Lawmakers will only be working three days next week because of the Easter holiday, and they took Friday off.
“The bottom line is that the legislature has gone home for a three-day weekend with nothing on the table to prevent thousands of educators statewide from coming to the Capitol April 2nd to demand action,” said Alicia Priest with the OEA.
Senate leadership released a vague statement that says:
“Senate Republicans agree that teachers deserve a significant pay raise, which is why 85 percent of Senate Republicans voted last week in favor of a 12.7 percent teacher pay raise. A 12.7 percent raise is two-and-a-half times more than what West Virginia teachers received, and would rank Oklahoma No. 2 in the region for average teacher pay. Many of the revenue ideas Senate Republicans support are within the OEA revenue plan announced today. Senate Republicans have worked for the past year and a half on a teacher pay raise plan and will continue working to fund a significant raise.” - Senate Pro Tem Mike Schulz, R-Altus
But there weren’t enough Republicans to pass the Senate plan, and Democrats in the House of Representatives say it would have failed there too.
“Oklahomans are tired of the blame game. They’re tired of the House blaming the Senate and the Senate blaming the House. They’re tired of democrats blaming Republicans and Republicans blaming Democrats,” said Duvall.
House leaders are not answering questions about the OEA plan, but Trent England of the Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs has plenty to say about it.
“They put together a bunch of plans that haven’t worked and made it even more expensive. I mean that is just not a path to compromise.”
Next week lawmakers are expected to work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but they’ll take Thursday and Friday off. They’ll come back April 2, the same day teachers are scheduled to walk out.