OCPA Says Lawmakers Unlikely To Accept Teacher Union’s Demands
OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma - Threats of a teacher strike loom over the state Capitol, as the educators ask legislators for more than $3 billion in funding with their latest proposal. One organization believes educators are making the wrong demands, though.
The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs says the teachers’ proposal will never get through the legislature. They say the ask is simply too big.
Over the next three years, the Oklahoma Education Association wants $3.3 billion, not just to pay for raises for teachers and support staff, and improvements to schools. More than half of the funds are for raises for state employees and healthcare spending.
OCPA President Jonathan Small says that is where the problem lies. “It’s just unfair to tie those kinds of things to the real legitimate needs of teachers and their students,” he said.
OCPA's public policy researchers say everyone agrees teachers deserve more money, but the reason none of the prior initiatives have passed is extra baggage. Small said there is one plan available right now that could give teachers at least some of the money they want.
He said that includes, “Gross production tax moving to 5%, a cigarette tax of 75-cents, and then eliminate all cash subsidies for renewable energy. That would generate for you almost $400 million.”
Small says it would cost $246 million a year for a $5,000 raise for each teacher. “That would leave you more than enough money,” he said, “over $120 million of new money that could be dedicated to the classroom and then some crucial personnel.”
OEA defends their request, saying state employees are underpaid also, and mismanagement of funds has left the state's health agencies in dire straits. OCPA suggests the teachers leave those groups to fend for themselves.
Teachers have given the legislature until April 2 to come to a decision before they go on strike.