OKLAHOMA CITY – As Oklahoma educators headed to the Capitol for the second day in a row, they are working to pressure lawmakers to pass a revenue raising measure.
Over the past several years, budget cuts have negatively impacted numerous state agencies, including the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
Despite having less money in the budget, the Oklahoma State Department of Education says that student enrollment continues to rise.
Officials say 694,816 students were enrolled in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade at the start of the school year, which is about 1,000 more than last year.
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.
Last week, 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.
Teachers say the bill doesn’t do enough to restore funding to classrooms, especially after lawmakers worked to repeal a part of the measure that was expected to generate $50 million.
On Monday, thousands of educators flocked to the Capitol to demand change.
On Tuesday, the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers urged members to visit lawmakers and confront them about a proposed bill.
Senate Bill 1086 would reinstate the capital gains tax, which is expected to generate millions of dollars for the state. The capital gains tax deduction was passed in 2004 and allows taxpayers to exempt from their taxable income any gains from the sale of property or stocks located in Oklahoma.
According to Oklahoma Policy Institute, the deduction almost entirely benefits wealthy business executives and investors. Officials say that nearly three-quarters of the benefit goes to taxpayers making over $1 million annually. Most middle class households are already largely exempt from the capital gains tax under federal law.
The OKC AFT urged members to bring ‘pledge cards’ with them to the Capitol, and pressure lawmakers to vote in favor of SB 1086.
“We are asking legislators to sign a pledge to reinstate the capital gains tax, a more-than fair way to raise new revenue for our schools. Giving students a well-resourced education shouldn’t be a privilege, but a right,” said Ed Allen, president of the Oklahoma City AFT.
On Monday, Rep. Scott Inman attempted to suspend the House rules in order to hear the measure immediately.
“We’ve got a lot of folks in the gallery who have been all over the building today, trying to figure out a way to pay for the teacher pay raise that passed last Monday and is $150 million upside down. They’ve asked us to do something, that we’re being told by leadership that they won’t do. A few weeks ago, Senate Bill 1086 passed out of the state Senate by a vote of 30-9 to eliminate the capital gains exemption, bringing in about $100 million into the state to help pay for that pay raise. It’s not been called up on the House floor, therefore, I move to suspend House rules to immediately bring Senate Bill 1086 to a floor for consideration and vote,” Inman said on the House floor.
Following his request, the gallery broke out in cheers.
However, the motion to suspend the rules and hear the measure was defeated by a vote of 54-30
On Tuesday, teachers headed back to the Capitol and actually filled it to capacity.
— Lili Zheng (@LiliNBC5) April 3, 2018
Again, Democratic lawmakers worked to suspend the rules again to try and hear the bill, but it that motion was voted down.
Following that vote, the gallery began booing lawmakers on the House floor.
#okleg can't resist making things WORSE. Having troopers escort teachers out of the gallery isn't a good look. Legislators should be trying to build consensus & solve the funding crisis not fan the flames.
— Effie Craven Rorke (@EffieCraven) April 3, 2018