Oklahoma teacher walkout ends

After nine days, the Oklahoma teacher walkout is ending, the state's largest teachers union said on Thursday. But tea...

Posted: Apr 13, 2018 11:42 AM
Updated: Apr 13, 2018 11:42 AM

After nine days, the Oklahoma teacher walkout is ending, the state's largest teachers union said on Thursday. But teachers across the state pledged to continue fighting for more school funding and higher pay.

"We have created a movement and there's no stopping us now," Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest said Thursday. "This fight is not over just because the school bell rings once more and our members walk back into schools."

The OEA decided to end the walkout with $479 million in funding for the next school year -- less than what they'd hoped to achieve, Priest said in a news conference. After days of negotiations with lawmakers in both the Oklahoma House and Senate, it became clear that "Senate Republicans won't budge an inch on any more revenue for public education," she said.

"We need to face reality," Priest told reporters. "Despite tens of thousands of people filling the Capitol and spilling out onto the grounds of this Capitol for nine days, we have seen no significant legislative movement since last Friday."

'Time to go back to school'

Priest said Oklahoma teachers had secured a victory even though the most significant gains were achieved before the beginning of the walkout. Before teachers walked out on April 2, Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill giving teachers a $6,100 raise. The OEA had called passage of the bill a "truly historic moment," but said it didn't go far enough. It wanted that figure to be $10,000. Fallin also signed a bill that raised education funding over the next fiscal year by $50 million. The teachers' union also wanted that number to be higher.

Fallin, who compared the striking teachers to "a teenage kid that wants a better car," said she was glad teachers were returning to school.

"They've been out for two weeks, and it's time for them to get back to school," Fallin said in a statement. "Student learning at schools affected by the strike has been halted for nearly two weeks at a critical time in the academic year when federal and state testing requirements need to be completed."

'A cop-out'

The Oklahoma educators' walkout came on the heels of another walkout in West Virginia, where Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill giving teachers a 5% pay raise after nine days. In Kentucky, teachers are preparing to rally Friday at the state Capitol in Frankfort, and in Arizona, educators are weighing a walkout of their own.

The decision to end the Oklahoma walkout was met with mixed reaction from teachers, some of whom said OEA ended the walkout prematurely.

"The OEA doesn't get to decide when I'm finished," said middle school choir teacher Renee Jerden, who said she was inspired by the walkout to run for Senate. "I feel like it's a cop-out -- we have let them win by showing them they can behave however they want and we'll eventually get tired and go home."

Oklahoma teachers said additional spending was needed to improve deteriorating school facilities and outdated school supplies. Many said they paid for classroom supplies with their own money while working multiple jobs to make ends meet.

The OEA had been polling its members throughout the walkout, Priest said. By Thursday, 70% of respondents indicated they were unsure of continuing the walkout, she said.

But some teachers said they were not polled before the final decision to end the walkout.

"I'm disappointed in the pullout of support from our teacher-led movement to secure more funding for our schools before a consensus was reached through a majority of polling efforts," said Jessica Lightle, a teacher at Puterbaugh Middle School in McAlester, Oklahoma. "I am, however, energized and motivated by the community of teachers, parents and students who have vowed to keep fighting for a better education for our children. This is a long road to recovery and Oklahomans have actively engaged to heal our system. I look forward to the future."

Her husband, McAlester High School English teacher Jason Lightle, said complacency had allowed the state education system to deteriorate, and gains were modest compared to the need. But he hopes the energy of the walkout will change that.

"My hope is that this walkout results in citizens becoming more engaged with their representatives at all levels so that the state of Oklahoma will become citizen-led, just as this walkout was teacher-led, and improvements can be made across the board. Complacency simply cannot be allowed any longer."

Teachers pledge to run for office

Efforts to obtain more funding will continue away from the Capitol, Priest said. The OEA will be supporting its members and candidates who are running for office during the midterm elections against those who opposed funding Oklahoma's schools.

The number of teachers vowing to run for office was one sign of the walkout's success, said Kelly Craig, a fifth grade teacher in Oklahoma City. "While it's disheartening that the walk-out ended, the walk-out forced change that Oklahomans will see this November," she said. "Without the walk-out, this wouldn't have occurred!"

Fourth grade math and science teacher Carri Hicks brought her students to protests at the Capitol. She called the decision to end the walkout "bittersweet." But she said the experience galvanized her and others to run for office.

"Advocacy levels are at an all time high, and we have to make sure that momentum continues well into the next decade."

Yukon High School teacher Jonathan Moy blamed legislators for their unwillingness to budge. But he said he's ready to go back to school.

"I told my students before this began that Oklahoma legislators have shown that education isn't a priority. Now the nation has proof of this," he said. "It's disappointing, but I think we've accomplished as much as we can. The kids are the priority."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 307519

Reported Deaths: 7096
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20784248
Hinds19894408
Harrison17493302
Rankin13316275
Jackson13099243
Madison9896210
Lee9859169
Jones8293160
Forrest7523146
Lauderdale7189237
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Lamar610784
Lafayette6028117
Washington5280132
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Marshall4273100
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Monroe4057132
Union403775
Neshoba3988176
Lincoln3871108
Hancock372185
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Tate322781
Pike3181104
Scott310572
Yazoo304368
Alcorn297764
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Copiah293065
Coahoma289677
Simpson287484
Tippah284868
Prentiss275659
Marion265979
Wayne261341
Leake261173
Grenada254982
Covington254580
Adams245982
Newton244859
George237847
Winston225981
Tishomingo222067
Jasper219748
Attala213373
Chickasaw204857
Holmes186471
Clay182454
Stone179131
Clarke176876
Tallahatchie175540
Calhoun163230
Yalobusha158836
Smith158634
Walthall130543
Greene129433
Lawrence126323
Noxubee125933
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120826
Amite120141
Webster113432
Jefferson Davis105432
Tunica102525
Claiborne101330
Benton97225
Kemper95226
Humphreys94332
Franklin81923
Quitman78916
Choctaw72817
Jefferson64828
Wilkinson64727
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 519071

Reported Deaths: 10712
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson754131487
Mobile37774798
Madison33868494
Tuscaloosa25283443
Montgomery23969565
Shelby23112238
Baldwin20638300
Lee15524165
Calhoun14286311
Morgan14140268
Etowah13664345
Marshall11957219
Houston10383278
Elmore9994200
Limestone9814147
Cullman9475188
St. Clair9429234
Lauderdale9218227
DeKalb8747181
Talladega8060171
Walker7092275
Jackson6755110
Autauga6727103
Blount6488135
Colbert6205130
Coffee5401112
Dale4768110
Russell428938
Franklin419982
Chilton4083109
Covington4053114
Tallapoosa3893146
Escambia388074
Dallas3527149
Chambers3500122
Clarke346360
Marion3066100
Pike305875
Lawrence295395
Winston272372
Bibb256458
Marengo248661
Geneva245875
Pickens232959
Barbour224955
Hale218775
Butler212366
Fayette208960
Henry187844
Cherokee182044
Randolph176941
Monroe171540
Washington164038
Macon154848
Clay149454
Crenshaw149357
Cleburne146041
Lamar139334
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109028
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99328
Greene90734
Choctaw58724
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