The Oklahoma Education Association announced the end of the teacher walkout at the state Capitol but called on educators, support staff and parents and citizens who support public education to turn their attention toward elections this November.
"Despite tens of thousands of people filling the Capitol, we have seen no significant legislative movement since last Friday," said OEA President Alicia Priest during a Thursday afternoon press conference.
Thursday was Day 9 of the Oklahoma teacher walkout. A number of school districts are closed Friday, and several more have already announced a return to classes on Monday.
"The Legislature has fallen way short of their responsibility to Oklahoma students," Priest said.
Here is a full statement from OEA Communications Director Doug Folks:
The following statement can be attributed to Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest:
“Education has been cut more in Oklahoma than in any other state in the country. For years, the Oklahoma Legislature refused to do what’s right for our students. Because of the members of the Oklahoma Education Association and the overwhelming support of the public, we were able to secure $479 million in education funding for next school year. The legislature, however, has fallen well short of its responsibility to Oklahoma’s students.
“Despite tens of thousands of people filling the Capitol and spilling out over the grounds for nine days, we have seen no significant legislative movement since last Friday. OEA leadership has been negotiating in good faith with the House and the Senate, but Senate Republicans won’t budge an inch on any more revenue for public education. They say they don’t believe Oklahoma students need more funding. They’re wrong. Lawmakers are simply refusing to cross the finish line.
“We recognize that our formal efforts to lobby elected leaders have achieved all that we will be able to accomplish this legislative session. OEA is a member-driven, representative organization, and while we are shifting our focus and efforts, we are supporting educators who decide to continue the walkout or those who decide to return to their classrooms. We want every school district to continue sending lobby teams to the Capitol. Education-related bills remain to be heard and there are still possible revenue measures we can support.
“As classes resume, we must turn our attention towards the election season. Instead of making our case at the steps of the Capitol, we have the opportunity to make our voices heard at the ballot box. The state didn’t find itself in this school funding crisis overnight. We got here by electing the wrong people to office. No more. A record number of candidates have filed for office, including OEA members who will be the best advocates for our students in the Oklahoma Legislature. This fight is not over just because the school bell rings once more and our members walk back into schools. We have created a movement and there’s no stopping us now.”
Folks also released the following statement regarding the $70 million in funding passed.
“Regardless of when it passed, there is $70 million in new money going to general school funding, including $50 million through the SDE budget plus the Amazon tax revenue. None of what has happened over the last three weeks would have happened without the threat of a walkout and the subsequent 9-day walkout.
There will be no hole created by the tobacco and gas taxes going to health care and roads and bridges in FY 20 because income tax revenue will swap out those revenue sources, dollar for dollar.”
The American Federation of Teachers released the following statement.
Statement by Ed Allen, president of the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, on ending the teacher walkout:
Ed Allen: “We have been at the state capitol for the last two weeks, doing everything we can to try to get as much as possible for the children of Oklahoma. We are proud of what we have accomplished, but truthfully there’s no one left to negotiate with in the statehouse. The Oklahoma Education Association has its own process for ending the walkout; we have ours. The Oklahoma City AFT went out with a vote, and we will go back in based on a vote. Tonight, our union will hold a telephone town hall meeting with our members to discuss the situation and listen to what teachers have to say. Tomorrow, we will take a vote of OK City teachers on whether to return to the classroom."
Randi Weingarten: “Oklahoma City’s teachers have been barnstorming the Capitol to secure everything they can and want to be back in the classroom, teaching. We’ve fought hard and we’ve won some critical gains, but it’s clear this legislature and governor will move no further, despite the need. So our attention will turn to November. We will fight up and down every ballot to elect people who believe in public education and who will invest in our public schools and kids."
Executive Director Shawn Hime of the Oklahoma State School Board Association released the following statement on the teacher walkout.
"All the important moments of the last few weeks have been about Oklahoma’s children. Today, they are the victors.
The classrooms that are key to their future have been in crisis, and Oklahoma stepped up and declared that our children deserve better. This is a proud moment for our state.
Lawmakers and Gov. Mary Fallin agreed to a new half-billion dollar investment in education and the state’s largest-ever teacher pay raise. Teachers, parents, school board members, administrators, businesses, community partners and the faith community advocated strongly on behalf of children at the Capitol while making sure children were cared for while school was out.
Investing in education and ensuring elected officials are committed to public education must be the new normal for Oklahoma, and I believe Oklahomans are committed to a future that’s much better than our past. Today isn’t the end game for our children, our teachers or our schools. It’s a new beginning."