Oklahoma group speaks out against OEA walk out plan

Teachers will lose their jobs as a result of budget cuts

OKLAHOMA CITY –For years, teachers have been asking Oklahoma lawmakers to find a way to fund a pay raise for educators across the state.

When another legislative session came to a close without a teacher pay raise, many educators decided to leave the classroom or the Sooner State for better pay.

Lilli Lyon, a Spanish teacher at Moore West Junior High School, told News 4 that she is seeing many teachers leave the state for schools in Texas.

“The cost of living there is very comparable, and the one is making $14,000 more a year just by driving four or five hours down that way,” Lyon said.

This week, a local teacher’s union announced that they are prepared to act if legislators don’t find funding by April 1.

The Oklahoma Education Association is seeking a $10,000 pay raise for Oklahoma teachers over three years, a $5,000 pay raise for support professionals over three years, a cost-of-living adjustment for retirees and the restoration of funding for education and core government services.

OEA announced that it is tentatively planning a teacher walkout for April 2 if legislators don’t increase teacher and staff pay.

“Our goals remain the same- to force the legislature to pass a plan that provides teachers and support professionals a significant pay raise, and restores critical funding to our classrooms,” said OEA President Alicia Priest in a video posted to the union’s Facebook page. “We will not allow lawmakers, once again, to shortchange our students, our teachers and our support professionals.”

However, not everyone is on board with the plan.

Ginger Tinney, president of the organization, Professional Oklahoma Educators.

 “I think that we don’t want to do anything that hurts children and I know that teachers are very frustrated. They’re tired of not being listened to,” said Ginger Tinney, president of the organization, Professional Oklahoma Educators. “I would say, give it time. Give us just a few more weeks until March 19th. If you don’t see productivity, then go to your plan B. But, let this be your plan A.”

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs says that while they support a teacher pay raise, they do not support a walk out.

“The OEA did not release a plan. Instead, the union, which represents a small percentage of Oklahoma teachers, released a set of demands with a total cost of $3.3 billion over three years. And, less than half of that money would go to teachers. The annual cost of the OEA’s demands, by year three, would be $1.4 billion. This is larger than any revenue package seriously considered by the Legislature in recent years.

“Teachers need a raise, just like our schools need reforms, but the goal should always be to improve student outcomes. That, obviously, is not served by a strike. And recent reporting in the Tulsa World suggests that many teachers are far more concerned about working conditions than they are about money. The OEA wants a narrow conversation about money, but the union’s own recent polling shows most Oklahomans are concerned about “accountability” (62%) and “personal responsibility” (39%) more than “investment” (27%).

“The Legislature should pass a teacher raise, coupled with reforms that put more control over pay in the hands of local districts. And there are many ways to give teachers a raise without increasing their taxes. If lawmakers are set on raising taxes to fund a teacher pay raise, we urge them to focus on the least damaging tax increases: increasing from two percent to five percent the gross production tax (during the incentive period) and a 75 cent per pack cigarette tax.

“Efficiencies and reforms include eliminating cash subsidies for wind and other renewable energy generation, cutting fraud in Medicaid, eliminating subsidies to filmmakers, and reforming the Commissioners of the Land Office and Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (which together control funds worth more than $3.5 billion) to direct some of their existing resources to teachers.”

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