The Oklahoma Education Association said they will continue the teacher walkout Monday to demand increased funding for education. President Alicia Priest said there has been some response from the legislature but it is not sufficient to make up for years of neglect.
The House and Senate voted to pass HB 1019XX, commonly known as the Amazon tax bill, and HB 3375 or the "ball and dice" tax. Then later on Friday, the Senate voted to repeal a lodging tax that is now excluded from the overall education funding package.
“Educators have been passionately advocating for their students and asking the legislature to provide more funding for our classrooms after a decade of neglect of Oklahoma’s public schools. Today the legislature started to hear us. The passage of clean versions of the ‘ball and dice’ legislation, HB 3375, and the Amazon tax bill, HB 1019xx, were vital to Oklahoma students," Priest said in a news conference.
“While this is a step forward, the repeal of the hotel/motel tax, HB 1012xx, is just the opposite. We call on Governor Fallin to immediately veto HB 1012xx because it steals $42 million in funding away from Oklahoma’s students."
The teachers’ union also wants the passage of a bill ending the capital gains tax deduction which could bring in an estimated $100 million.
In contrast, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association President released a statement that said during the last two weeks, the legislature has passed bills that would generate more than half a billion dollars in new funding for the schools. President Shawn Hime said the new funding puts schools "in their strongest financial position in more than a decade."
"My hope now is local communities will begin a serious conversation about the need for children to return to class so they can finish the school year strong and ensure all of the dedicated employees in our schools can continue to be paid," he said.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister also released a statement after the legislation was passed. She said:
"What we have seen at the Capitol this past week has been groundbreaking. Over the past several days, it has been my privilege to engage hundreds of teachers in face-to-face conversations and to witness firsthand their tireless advocacy to ensure that their students and classrooms have the resources for learning.
“On the heels of landmark legislation signed into law just last week, common education now has received an infusion of nearly $500 million in new revenue. I am grateful for the bipartisan efforts of legislators who have done the right thing to reverse a decade of funding challenges that failed to keep pace with student enrollment and need. The legislation passed this week is tremendous progress, but our students and their education will require continued investment and advocacy for years to come.
“Teachers, your stories have been heard at the Capitol and across the nation. These gains are the result of your fight for kids. I know your hearts are in the classroom. I am inspired by your years of dedication, humbled by your sacrifices and proud of your accomplishments.”
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