OPEA: State employees will no longer participate in walkout at Capitol
OKLAHOMA CITY – As teachers continue to fight for increased funding for education, one group says it will no longer be at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
Last month, the Oklahoma Education Association announced that it 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 was tentatively planning a teacher walkout for April 2 if legislators didn’t meet those demands.
Earlier this month, Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill that raises teachers’ salaries by an average of $6,100. It also gives $1,250 raises for support staff and adds $50 million in education funding.
When educators said more needed to be done, school districts across the state closed as teachers marched to the Capitol to lobby for additional funding.
However, they weren’t the only ones at the Capitol asking for increased funding.
On Thursday, the Oklahoma Public Employees Association said that its members will no longer participate in the walkout at the Capitol because “education advocates and lawmakers’ focus has shifted from funding all core services to only funding common education,” a release from the OPEA read.
“State employees have been at the Capitol since April 2nd to support all core services, including education. Recent discussions focus solely on education funding and exclude public safety, veterans’ services, mental health, protective services or any other state agency services,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley.
Officials say they haven’t heard of any discussions about how the legislature plans to protect funding for core services in the future.
“Even if lawmakers approve a flat budget for state agencies, the result is the same as a budget cut because agencies’ workloads and costs increase every year. Many state agencies’ budgets have been reduced 30 percent during the past several years yet state employees still serve their communities despite inadequate resources,” he said. “Our agencies need increased funding and state employees need a significant pay raise.”
During the legislative session, the OPEA said that it will continue to ask lawmakers to fund a state employee pay raise, another pay raise next year and $50 million to begin restoring previous state agency cuts.