Teachers on a collision course with pols
It became official Thursday: The largest, most organized voice for Oklahoma teachers issued an ultimatum to legislators that teachers will shut down much of Oklahoma's public-school system indefinitely unless serious money is found to boost teacher pay and education funding.
But signs of headwinds emerged quickly, foreshadowing a political stalemate that could pit hundreds of educators against a Legislature that has repeatedly quashed attempts to raise revenue for teacher pay raises.
The Oklahoma Education Association announced that educators will walk out on April 2 unless lawmakers find nearly $1.5 billion in new revenue, including $812 million for the upcoming fiscal year. The money would pay for teacher and state employee pay raises and restore hundreds of millions in education funding cuts.
The teachers' union, however, didn't spell out how to pay for the plan. Instead, OEA President Alicia Priest suggested lawmakers revisit earlier proposals that failed to get the three-fourths vote required of revenue bills. Among those was the Step Up Oklahoma plan, pitched by civic and business leaders, that would have raised taxes on cigarettes, motor fuel and oil and gas production. Other Step Up changes were proposed in separate bills.
But early indications were that legislators' lines in the sand weren't shifting.
After the announcement, Oklahoma Watch contacted more than a dozen key House members who had opposed the previous proposals. All said the walkout threat won't convince them to flip their votes unless they receive significant concessions.