Nine days after it started, the teacher walkout is over in Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Education Association is claiming victory, even though lawmakers refused to budge on the $2.9 billion education spending plan it passed before the walkout.
“We absolutely have a victory for teachers. Half a billion dollars is a victory,” said OEA President Alicia Priest.
But that was money that was budgeted before the walkout. No additional money was added to the budget in fiscal year 2019 since the walkout started.
When pressed on that, Priest staged a walkout of her own, refusing to answer reporters’ questions. “Thank you,” she said, as she walked out of a press conference OEA had called.
The OEA is blaming Republican leadership for not moving on the budget, and said they’ll now take their fight to the ballot box.
But Republican senate leaders said they’ve met most of OEA’s demands.
“We have delivered on 95 percent of their demands,” said Senator Greg Treat (R) Majority Floor Leader. “(I) Don’t know about you but when I was in school getting a 95 percent was an “A” and in some cases it was an A-plus.”
Treat said he tried to negotiate in good faith with OEA, but OEA regularly changed its demands.
“Last Friday they said if you pass two more things, and we passed two more things. So, I don’t know where the end of the asks are,” said Treat. “One of my frustrations has been if we’re wanting to negotiate, if we’re wanting to talk about and give assurances who is the appropriate person to talk to? And I have yet to fully get an answer that I’m comfortable on that.”
Earlier this week, OEA demanded $50 million. The next day that number was $25 million, even demonstrating teachers didn’t know exactly how much they were asking for.
“I think it’s time to get back in the classroom,” Treat said.
The OEA sent an e-mail to their members claiming, “The presence and persistence of Oklahoma educators and their supporters” led to “$70 million in reoccurring revenue for our classrooms.” Even though, $50 million of that was built into the budget passed before the walkout.
“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,” said Doug Folks, a spokesman with OEA.