Teachers, Health Care Advocates Rally In Favor Of 'Step Up Oklahoma' Plan
TULSA, Oklahoma - Hundreds of teachers went to the state capitol Monday in support of a plan that would bring the state's biggest pay raise for teachers in a decade.
Hundreds of other teachers from across the state are attending the rally in support of the "Step Up Oklahoma" plan. Part of that plan includes new taxes to give Oklahoma teachers a $5,000 pay raise.
There was a spirit of cautious optimism as more than 100 teachers boarded three buses at the Education Service Center Monday morning.
Kelli Roberts teaches seventh grade English at East Central Junior High. She's one of the Tulsa teachers who traveled to the capitol to tell lawmakers how miserable and underpaid Oklahoma teachers are.
"Most of the people I work with have a second job, and I can see the stress," Roberts said.
"I have heard this is the most joyless year ever just because things like low pay, and then lack of student accountability," said Shawna Mott-Wright with the Tulsa Teacher’s Classroom Association.
The ‘Step Up Oklahoma’ plan includes new taxes that would give teachers a $5,000 raise. The Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association says better pay would lessen teacher turnover and lead to kids doing better in class.
"We're gonna try to take care of kids by getting a raise for ourselves so that we can stay in Oklahoma," Mott-Wright said.
The teachers said they hope by going to the capitol they’ll get support from lawmakers.
Roberts said leaving the state for another teaching job is getting more attractive but she's determined to stay here, fight for more money and help her kids.
"I think we make due and we try and give the kids the best experience we can as far as their education," she said.
A nonpartisan group of Oklahoma business, civic and community leaders came together to support the Step Up Oklahoma plan. A news release from Step Up Oklahoma says other advocates of the plan - including health care, nursing home and business interests - are in attendance.
The plan is a combination of reform and revenue measures that proponents say will eliminate some wasteful spending as well as raise money to support the teacher raise and fund core services.
State House members are set to vote on parts of that plan Monday afternoon. Lawmakers should start debate at 1:30 p.m.