Third grade teacher Lisa Sander says the pledge of allegiance with her class at Mayo Demonstration School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on March 12. (Mike Simons/Tulsa World)

Third grade teacher Lisa Sander says the pledge of allegiance with her class at Mayo Demonstration School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on March 12. (Mike Simons/Tulsa World)

Oklahoma lawmakers scramble to avert teacher walkout

The Oklahoma walkout would be the second major teachers’ strike this year.

  • By SEAN MURPHY Associated Press
  • Tuesday, March 27, 2018 7:38pm
  • Nation-World

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — Pressure mounted Tuesday on the Republican-led Oklahoma Legislature to broker a deal on taxes to pay for hundreds of millions in new education spending and avert a threatened strike of teachers next week.

The leader of the state’s largest teacher’s union said Monday’s planned walkout over low pay and funding for schools could end up being more of a one-day celebration if lawmakers can approve a deal this week.

“Teachers will be here on April 2,” said Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest. “They may be saying ‘thank you.’”

An Oklahoma teachers walkout would be the second major teachers’ strike this year, following one in West Virginia last month that led to a 5 percent pay hike. Arizona teachers also are boosting efforts to organize and may follow.

A starting teacher in Oklahoma makes $31,600, and the average teacher salary ranks 49th among the states and District of Columbia, according to the most recent statistics from the National Education Association. Only South Dakota and Mississippi are lower.

Oklahoma Senate leaders were scrambling to find the votes Tuesday for a nearly $450 million package of tax hikes on cigarettes, motor fuel, lodging and oil and gas production that passed the House late Monday. That bill, along with separate revenue measures to expand tribal gaming and cap itemized income tax deductions, would provide enough money for an average salary hike of $6,100 for teachers, along with raises for education support personnel and state workers.

Oklahoma has a steep hurdle for tax increases, requiring three-fourths of lawmakers to approve. Senate Floor Leader Greg Treat said Tuesday he wasn’t sure if they had the votes to pass the package and send it to the governor. Both the increase in the oil and gas production tax from 2 percent to 5 percent and a new $5-per-night tax on hotel and motel stays have never been considered in the Senate.

“I think we’re open to the idea,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City. “We don’t have a hard count on what we know we can deliver.”

It’s also not clear if the plan is enough to satisfy teachers, who haven’t received a raise since 2007 and have grown increasingly frustrated in recent years over funding cuts to schools.

Priest called the package a good “first step,” but wouldn’t say if it was enough to avert a prolonged walkout. The union has demanded a $10,000 pay raise for teachers over three years, $5,000 for support personnel and a $75 million increase in funding, and the package approved by the House would not be enough to satisfy all of their demands.

“I see it as a huge step forward, but it’s definitely lacking,” said Zachary Grimm, a high school Spanish teacher and the president of the local teacher union in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore. “My teachers and I are still gearing up to walk out on Monday.”

About one-third of the state’s 512 school districts, including most of its largest, are prepared to close for at least one day. Dozens more are prepared to close indefinitely or have plans to use bad-weather days or add hours to the end of the calendar so classrooms can remain empty.

Priest said whether school closures extend beyond one day depends on individual teachers and local districts.

“I think it’s too early to tell one way or another how that plays out,” Priest said.

Talk to us

More in Nation-World

A woman reacts as she prepares to leave an area for relatives of the passengers aboard China Eastern's flight MU5735 at the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, Tuesday, March 22, 2022, in Guangzhou. No survivors have been found as rescuers on Tuesday searched the scattered wreckage of a China Eastern plane carrying 132 people that crashed a day earlier on a wooded mountainside in China's worst air disaster in more than a decade. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
No survivors found in crash of Boeing 737 in China

What caused the plane to drop out of the sky shortly before it was to being its descent remained a mystery.

In this photo taken by mobile phone released by Xinhua News Agency, a piece of wreckage of the China Eastern's flight MU5735 are seen after it crashed on the mountain in Tengxian County, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on Monday, March 21, 2022. A China Eastern Boeing 737-800 with 132 people on board crashed in a remote mountainous area of southern China on Monday, officials said, setting off a forest fire visible from space in the country's worst air disaster in nearly a decade. (Xinhua via AP)
Boeing 737 crashes in southern China with 132 aboard

More than 15 hours after communication was lost with the plane, there was still no word of survivors.

In this photo taken from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. Street fighting broke out in Ukraine's second-largest city Sunday and Russian troops put increasing pressure on strategic ports in the country's south following a wave of attacks on airfields and fuel facilities elsewhere that appeared to mark a new phase of Russia's invasion. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
Ukraine wants EU membership, but accession often takes years

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s request has enthusiastic support from several member states.

FILE - Ukrainian servicemen walk by fragments of a downed aircraft,  in in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. The International Criminal Court's prosecutor has put combatants and their commanders on notice that he is monitoring Russia's invasion of Ukraine and has jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity. But, at the same time, Prosecutor Karim Khan acknowledges that he cannot investigate the crime of aggression. (AP Photo/Oleksandr Ratushniak, File)
ICC prosecutor to open probe into war crimes in Ukraine

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet confirmed that 102 civilians have been killed.

FILE - Refugees fleeing conflict from neighboring Ukraine arrive to Zahony, Hungary, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. As hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians seek refuge in neighboring countries, cradling children in one arm and clutching belongings in the other, leaders in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania are offering a hearty welcome. (AP Photo/Anna Szilagyi, File)
Europe welcomes Ukrainian refugees — others, less so

It is a stark difference from treatment given to migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa.

Afghan evacuees disembark the plane and board a bus after landing at Skopje International Airport, North Macedonia, on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. North Macedonia has hosted another group of 44 Afghan evacuees on Wednesday where they will be sheltered temporarily till their transfer to final destinations. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)
‘They are safe here.’ Snohomish County welcomes hundreds of Afghans

The county’s welcoming center has been a hub of services and assistance for migrants fleeing Afghanistan since October.

FILE - In this April 15, 2019, file photo, a vendor makes change for a marijuana customer at a cannabis marketplace in Los Angeles. An unwelcome trend is emerging in California, as the nation's most populous state enters its fifth year of broad legal marijuana sales. Industry experts say a growing number of license holders are secretly operating in the illegal market — working both sides of the economy to make ends meet. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
In California pot market, a hazy line between legal and not

Industry insiders say the practice of working simultaneously in the legal and illicit markets is a financial reality.

19 dead, including 9 children, in NYC apartment fire

More than five dozen people were injured and 13 people were still in critical condition in the hospital.

15 dead after Russian skydiver plane crashes

The L-410, a Czech-made twin-engine turboprop, crashed near the town of Menzelinsk.

FILE - In this March 29, 2018, file photo, the logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square. Facebook prematurely turned off safeguards designed to thwart misinformation and rabble rousing after Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the 2020 elections in a moneymaking move that a company whistleblower alleges contributed to the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, invasion of the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram in hourslong worldwide outage

Something made the social media giant’s routes inaccessable to the rest of the internet.

Oil washed up on Huntington Beach, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. A major oil spill off the coast of Southern California fouled popular beaches and killed wildlife while crews scrambled Sunday to contain the crude before it spread further into protected wetlands. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Crews race to limited damage from California oil spill

At least 126,000 gallons (572,807 liters) of oil spilled into the waters off Orange County.

YouTube will remove videos with misinformation about any vaccine

The ban covers claims vaccines are dangerous or lead to chronic health outcomes such as autism.