OEA Demands $50M To End Teacher Walkout
OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) is now putting a dollar figure on their demands. Fifty-million dollars and they’ll end the walk out. But that could be easier said than done.
“They’ve passed $456 million. We’ve asked for $506 million in the first year. And when you do the math, that does break down to $50-million,” said Alicia Priest with the OEA. “So, we’re 90 percent of the way there.”
The OEA says its backing several plans like a capital gains tax or wind tax, but as long as the legislature reaches that $50 million mark, they say the walkout is over.
“That’s just one route on a roadmap to get to a final destination. There are many other routes to get there,” said Priest.
But Republican lawmakers say they’ve already passed the largest tax increase in the state’s history, fully funded $2.9 billion education spending plan that includes $6,100 average raises for teachers and more money for the classroom. They say they’ve done enough.
“I’m not sure what else we can do this legislative session on top of what we’ve already done,” said Representative John Pfeiffer (R) Assistant Majority Whip.
Teachers at Norman High School agree the OEA’s demands are not realistic, especially calling for a capital gains tax that could hurt agriculture. They’d rather see a repeal of the income tax break.
“They are absolutely being unrealistic,” said Norman High School Teacher Dawn Brockman, “Because again, agriculture has a great lobbying force. With income tax there’s not going to be the calls to legislators so why not go after income tax. It’s a cost of an average of $30 per person.”
But teachers say the OEA doesn’t seem interested in their opinion.
“The OEA really doesn’t take into consideration a lot of our opinions. We haven’t been reached out to a lot of ways and they speak without us a lot of times,” said Brockman.
Norman High School Teacher Catherine Wilson added, “The communication with OEA has been very top down. I haven’t received any communication with OEA asking what it is that I’m here for.”
The OEA insists it is keeping lines of communication open with teachers. Tuesday, the organization filed a permit to continue the walkout at the Capitol through next week.
Tuesday evening, Priest released the following statement in response to Gov. Fallin signing the repeal of the hotel-motel tax:
“Governor Fallin has spent years doing far too little for public education, so it’s no surprise that she took measures to further neglect students today. The governor and lawmakers keep closing the door on revenue options when Oklahomans are asking for a better path forward. Filing for office starts Wednesday. Public education should be the issue this November. We need candidates who are worthy of our children.”