OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) has laid out their requests for the upcoming session, including additional funding for teacher pay raises and classrooms.
At a press conference Wednesday, OEA president Alicia said the increase in funding obtained in 2018 was a step in the right direction but that the work remains in the second year of their "Together, We're Stronger" campaign.
"We lag behind 2,400 dollars per student behind the top funded top funded state in our region. While our teacher pay is projected to be third in the region this year, teachers can still cross the Red River and make more," Priest said.
This year, the association is asking for an additional $3,000 pay raise for teachers, $2,500 for support professionals, $150 million in classroom funding, plus an 8 percent cost of living adjustment for retired educators. This is part of a three-year plan which seeks to secure the following:
• Raise teacher pay by $10,000
• Increase salaries for education support professionals (secretaries, bus drivers, food service workers, paraprofessionals, etc.) by $5,000
• Add $200 million for school operations
• Provide a cost-of-living-adjustment for education retirees and raises for state employees.
"Every legislator that we talked to had education as a priority and continuing the funding. Even Governor-elect Stitt says that Oklahoma should have a top 10 education," said Priest.
The OEA said their members are "working aggressively" to ensure another teacher walkout does not happen, adding they believe their requests are feasible given preliminary numbers from a state budget panel showing roughly $612 million new dollars.
Governor-elect Kevin Stitt warned state agency heads Wednesday the surplus should not be treated as a blank check.
"This is not something you can just come in and say hey how can we fund our different pet projects? Because I was elected as Governor to make sure to make sure that we do government differently, that we hold agencies accountable," Stitt said.
Lawmakers part of the budget process tell us they are listening.
"I think it will show, really, who we are as a state how we choose to spend this additional revenue. My deepest fear is that they’ll say, oh we’re great on money. Let’s cut taxes again which is exactly what got us here in the first place," Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City said.
Rep. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon said they want to change a climate at the Capitol when it comes to educational funding.
"Overwhelmingly our teachers have said that they’re concerned about classroom funding and so I think that is a priority for us," Rep. Baker said. "We want to make sure the teachers understand want to support their needs and we want them to feel like they’re being heard."
OEA communications specialist Doug Folks said a walkout is never the goal, rather it is about funding. Members have voted to hold what they are calling a "statewide advocacy effort" is education is not funded by April 1, 2019. Folks said what that action may be has not been determined.