Oklahoma teachers' walkout gains momentum in its 2nd week

Emboldened by support from across the country, Oklahoma teachers swarmed the state Capitol for a second week in their...

Posted: Apr 10, 2018 5:48 AM
Updated: Apr 10, 2018 5:48 AM

Emboldened by support from across the country, Oklahoma teachers swarmed the state Capitol for a second week in their unrelenting quest for more school funding.

And by some accounts, Monday's crowd was the biggest yet.

Hundreds of schools closed Monday as teachers demanded $150 million more to replace dilapidated, decades-old textbooks and fund elective courses. They also want higher raises for support staff and themselves.

Some teachers walked 15 miles Monday to get to Oklahoma City.

They bring the support and advice of West Virginia teachers, whose nine-day strike last month led to a 5% pay raise.

"When talking to West Virginia teachers, they told me the most important day of the walkout was the 2nd Monday," posted Alberto Morejon, the organizer of the "Oklahoma Teacher Walkout - The Time is Now!" Facebook group.

Millions of dollars granted, millions more wanted

The teachers' massive protest has already yielded some action by legislators.

Shortly before the April 2 walkout, Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill that provided $50 million in funding for schools, increased teachers' salaries and gave pay raises to support staff. But the package wasn't nearly as much as educators demanded, so major school districts shuttered and the walkout ensued.

Now, two pieces of legislation could soon become law, getting a few steps closer to what teachers say they need:

1. The state Senate approved a bill amendment Friday that would require third-party retailers selling through outlets such as Amazon to collect sales tax from customers or inform them how much they owe in sales taxes. (The House approved the measure earlier in the week.) That bill could bring in about $20 million annually in education funding, but teachers say schools need a total of $200 million over three years.

2. The Senate on Friday approved a "ball and dice" tax for gambling. While Senate leaders said it will not add any income to this year's education funding, the Oklahoma Education Association said it would help in the long run.

But the OEA was livid about another Senate move: the repeal of a hotel and motel tax that it said would be paid by mostly nonresidents and would add millions in revenue.

The Senate followed the House's lead and repealed the tax as part of Bill 1010XX, thereby chopping $43 million from the education funding bill. Senators say they can make up that shortage through other revenue in the bill.

What will it take for this to end?

While thousands of students remain out of school indefinitely, OEA President Alicia Priest made clear what she thinks lawmakers must do to end the teacher walkout.

She said Fallin must veto the Legislature's repeal of the hotel-motel tax, and the Legislature must pass a bill ending the state's capital gains tax deduction.

Until then, don't expect teachers to end the walkout.

"I think it will continue ... until they see the fully funded education bills that need to be passed," said Kingsgate Elementary Principal Karie Hill, one of many administrators who joined teachers at the Capitol.

Kentucky teachers are furious, too

The Oklahoma protesters join teachers from Kentucky, Arizona and other states who have been fighting for more pay, better education funding and improved working conditions.

In Kentucky, teachers also protested the passage of a pension bill, which they called a "bait-and-switch" move.

That bill, which would affect new teachers, is at Gov. Matt Bevin's desk. Supporters of the bill said the changes are necessary to save the state's pension systems.

CNNMoney: How states are changing teacher pension plans

While Kentucky teachers were protesting the pension overhaul last week, the state Legislature passed changes to the tax system called House Bill 366.

An analysis of that bill by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found it would bring a huge tax cut for the richest 1% of residents, while the biggest tax increase would affect those making less than $21,000 a year. A fellow with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy described it as "a tax cut for Kentucky's richest people paired with a tax increase for the middle class and the poor."

Bevin has until legislators return to session April 13 to sign the bill.

Until then, the Kentucky Educators Association has urged its members to return to their classrooms.

"Our students need us to show up for them in classrooms and schools," the group posted on Facebook over the weekend. "We urge educators statewide not to allow our united efforts to be compromised by continued calls for action that deprive students, parents and communities of the educational services we provide."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 149940

Reported Deaths: 3779
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10097104
Hinds9984199
Harrison7116110
Jackson6360119
Rankin5588103
Lee509195
Madison4799106
Forrest383186
Jones357688
Lauderdale3496147
Lafayette326051
Washington3179107
Lamar291550
Oktibbeha245462
Bolivar241384
Lowndes237364
Panola222350
Neshoba2206118
Marshall217250
Leflore205590
Pontotoc199928
Monroe198177
Sunflower191655
Lincoln190865
Warren176857
Tate169851
Union167325
Copiah164140
Pike162658
Yazoo156039
Scott154829
Itawamba152935
Pearl River152167
Alcorn151328
Coahoma150543
Simpson148353
Prentiss146230
Adams141950
Grenada140945
Leake134944
Holmes130861
George125524
Tippah125230
Covington123439
Winston122224
Hancock121139
Wayne117923
Marion116646
Attala113034
Tishomingo109442
Chickasaw107632
Newton105629
Tallahatchie97027
Clay91327
Clarke90553
Jasper82822
Stone77014
Walthall76928
Calhoun75513
Montgomery74525
Carroll72415
Lawrence71814
Smith71316
Yalobusha71327
Noxubee71017
Perry67026
Tunica61019
Greene60322
Claiborne58616
Jefferson Davis57017
Amite54014
Humphreys53619
Benton49318
Quitman4927
Webster44314
Kemper43618
Wilkinson39822
Jefferson35211
Franklin3395
Choctaw3357
Sharkey30917
Issaquena1164
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 244993

Reported Deaths: 3572
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson32314500
Mobile19859361
Madison13223148
Tuscaloosa13049154
Montgomery12342236
Shelby1031577
Baldwin873398
Lee775766
Morgan662650
Calhoun6301119
Etowah627666
Marshall627255
Houston525638
DeKalb485536
Cullman439442
Limestone425145
St. Clair419555
Lauderdale407854
Elmore406864
Walker3657111
Talladega351454
Jackson320423
Colbert311942
Blount292240
Autauga273542
Franklin252633
Coffee245415
Dale232654
Dallas226232
Chilton223438
Russell22193
Covington218934
Escambia198331
Chambers176850
Tallapoosa176391
Pike158614
Clarke158419
Marion140236
Winston133023
Lawrence127936
Pickens123518
Geneva12218
Marengo121524
Bibb117917
Barbour117310
Butler116541
Randolph102921
Cherokee102224
Hale97031
Clay91924
Fayette91616
Washington91219
Henry8546
Lowndes79929
Monroe78911
Cleburne77214
Macon73722
Crenshaw71130
Bullock69619
Perry6886
Conecuh68414
Lamar6798
Wilcox63518
Sumter58122
Greene42618
Choctaw42213
Coosa3444
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