History Repeats Itself With Oklahoma Teacher Work Stoppage

Thursday, March 29th 2018, 4:46 pm
By: Alex Cameron

Whether you call it a strike or a walkout, work stoppages are pretty rare in Oklahoma. But regardless, history is repeating itself in the Sooner State.

It was 28 years ago, in April of 1990. News On 6 was there as thousands of teachers marched on the Capitol, demanding to be heard.

"Two, four, six, eight - we want you to legislate!" the crowd shouted.

OEA Executive Director David DuVall was also there and remembers it well. DuVall was then a picket captain for OEA. He had a front row seat to history and is now watching it repeat itself.

"A lot of the conditions that existed then, exist again today, with respect to poor funding," said OEA Executive Director David DuVall.

Educate Oklahoma

The biggest difference, DuVall says, is that in 1990, there was one bill - House Bill 1017 - that all parties had a hand in creating, but it needed emergency passage, a two-thirds majority and it came up short in the Senate.

"What we will not tolerate, as professionals, is failure to address the needs of children," Kyle Dahlem said during the 1990 teacher walkout.
Kyle Dahlem was OEA's president back then. She resolved not to let a few votes keep them from crossing the finish line, and his resolve spread quickly. At OEA's urging, and with school districts' support, teachers across the state prepared to picket.

"We didn't know how many would close; we didn't know how many would show up," said OEA Executive Director David DuVall. 

"I remember that first day, on that Monday, standing on the steps of the capitol and seeing vans and cars and buses pull up," he said. 

About 10,000 came out on day one, and DuVall says, instead of dwindling, their numbers grew.

"The fourth day we had 20,000 people, and it was clearly growing, and the legislators - at that point said - hey, wait a minute," DuVall said. 

Crowds celebrated when word spread that the Senate had passed the bill.

"I was on the steps of the capitol," said David DuVall, Oklahoma Education Association.

"There were tears. There were cheers. It was a remarkable, a remarkable feeling of exhilaration through out the crowd. Remarkable."

Much of House Bill 1017 has been undone over the years which has led to the April 2, 2018, school shutdown.