Oklahoma House, Senate Adjourn With No New Action On School Funding
OKLAHOMA CITY - With Thursday’s inaction at the Capitol, and no plans for action Friday, teachers were left wondering if continuing the walkout would do any good, especially with Republican leaders saying the education budget is done for the year.
As they've done before, House Democrats tried to get a vote on a capital gains tax, but, as they’ve done before, Republicans shut it down 29-69.
State legislators said they were considering several measures Thursday to fund education.
One of the bills would have consolidated superintendents in smaller counties, and that could save more than $40 million in funding. Another would cap superintendents’ salaries so they don't make more than the governor.
But, without budging, the House adjourned, and, as they’ve done before, teachers shouted in unison for lawmakers to fund their schools.
The Oklahoma Education Association says they asked for $75 million in year-one education funding, and they have more than that in a plan that covers two years. They say they also asked for a $6,000 teacher pay raise, and educators are getting $6,100.
The Oklahoma Education Association said it wants $25 million to end the protest after a mistake with their math. On Monday, they said they needed $50 million.
The OEA said it has achieved about 95 percent of what it originally asked the legislature for in year one of its three-year education funding plan, though some are questioning whether their numbers add up.
Some teachers claim the OEA is leaving them in the dark. They don't believe the numbers recently released by the organization are an accurate representation of what was asked for and what has been promised.
For some, the walkout ends this week, but many said they'll keep the pressure on lawmakers.
"We will continue to fight until we are fully funded, until they meet the promise that they made,” said Broken Arrow teacher Sarah Shultz.
Teachers still packed hallways and offices, trying to get the House to at least take a vote.
"He's not allowing revenue bills to come on the floor. So, we’re trying to get as many people in the room to crowd his office to kind of pressure him into doing something," Norman teacher Jacob Marsh said.
It's not just the House; the Senate isn't budging either.
“I think it's time to get back in the classroom," Senate Majority Leader Greg Treat said.
Treat said he considers the education budget finished for the year and said any talk of new money is about next year.
“Don't intend on increasing the education beyond the half-a-billion dollars we’ve already increased it," he said.
He said last week the Oklahoma Education Associated wanted two things and got them. He also said he doesn't know what else they want exactly, but he wants to know who to talk to since he can't negotiate with 40,000 people.
With no sign of progress for the week, many teachers are discouraged.
“I'm disappointed. I feel like they should’ve passed something or given so hope. I think they think we'll be gone on Monday,” Jenks teacher Jamie Gottlob said.
Many teachers said they plan to keep going to the Capitol, just in smaller groups, to keep the Legislature accountable for education funding.
Some of the teachers who have been protesting for increased school funding have been inspired to run for state office. A record number of people filed for candidacy on day one of the three-day filing period - 458 people made their candidacy official.