State-Wide Teacher Walkout To Protest Funding Cuts Gains Momentum
BROKEN ARROW, Oklahoma - Several Oklahoma schools are considering going on strike in response to low wages.
A grassroots effort to protest education funding is joining forces with a teachers’ union push for higher wages, and many school boards and superintendents are supporting it.
The major school districts around Tulsa are all promising to support the teachers in whatever they do.
Sand Springs is one of many considering closing school to accommodate protesting teachers.
What could turn into a teacher walkout by April gained momentum from parents complaining in Bartlesville. They're angry over funding cuts and teacher pay that has educators leaving for other states or quitting altogether.
"They're ready to go because it's the right thing for the kids. They see day in and out how the funding cuts are affecting the students," said OEA President Alicia Priest.
Oklahoma's teacher's union - the OEA - said a survey found 81 percent of teachers, and 76 percent of parents support a walkout.
Tulsa area districts are still talking about it, but, over the next two weeks will be making commitments.
"We share their frustrations with the pay situation and the school funding situation in general, and the school board and our administration is behind them," said Charlie Hannema with Broken Arrow Public Schools.
The Oklahoma Education Association is finalizing a list of demands that, for now, includes a $10,000 pay raise for teachers over three years, and a $5,000 pay raise for support workers over the same time period.
They want a general funding increase in an amount still to be determined.
"This has been the toughest year to find qualified replacements that anybody in our administration can think of,” Hannema said. “They're already out at job fairs looking for college grads and it's tough. People don't want to be teachers with the way our legislature has been treating them, it's hard to blame them.”
The union says the legislature must act quickly to stop the walkout.
"And it may come to that, but a work stoppage is the last resort. We want to be there for the kids, but at some point, we're going to call it and our schools are going to shut down,” Priest said.
The teachers’ union plans to finalize their demands by Thursday and the date for a statewide walkout.
Local school boards will be jumping on board over the next two weeks.