OKLAHOMA CITY – A teacher walkout with no end in sight.
Educators and supporters are demanding more money for the classroom.
Last week, Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill increasing teacher pay by an average of around $6,000 – something she believes is a step in the right direction.
“Education funding certainly has been a priority. That’s why we gave the largest ever increase in education funding in our state’s history,” Governor Fallin said. “19% increase in the budget and of course we raised teacher salaries 15% to 18% based upon length of service and we did give $50 million dollars extra for textbooks and supplies and other things like that.”
But, the governor admits the walkout is disruptive to the ongoing session and that lawmakers have other funding measures to work out.
“Security is certainly a big issue. We want to make sure everybody is safe, but I think we need to have calm heads, cool voices, be respectful of each other, talk about and understand the needs that there are, but also not be disruptive to the legislative process in getting the state’s work done,” she said.
She also said lawmakers have other funding measures to work out before the end of the session in May.
“So, we have to make sure that we get the people’s business done and talk about corrections and overcrowding, health and human services, mental health services, substance abuse issues,” she said.
News 4 also asked the governor about her national headline-making comments relating the teacher strike to teenagers wanting a better car.
“One of the things that people are concerned about are some comments that were made in an earlier interview regarding the teenage and cars comment. What would you say to those folks that when they heard that, they had concerns for it?”
“Well the question was asked of me by a national reporter, if you give the teachers the largest pay raise ever and more funding to education ever, and you’ve already done that, but they struck anyway. Why are they still striking? And I said, because they want more money, and he said, how much more money do they want? So we were having a conversation about how much more should we give above the $6,100 pay increase and $50 million more for education, and I said, sometimes it’s like a teenager always wanting a better car. You give them one thing, but they want something better.”
So it was just a comparison that there are teachers who want more money for the classroom. There is a definite need for that, but we have taken a large step forward as a state and passed an historic increase in education funding.”
But right now, teachers aren’t stopping until their demands are met. The state’s largest union is asking for the passage of the so called “ball and dice” legislation as well as the Amazon tax bill.
“I think the two major pieces of legislation they’re talking about are still in the process. They`re still alive. They`re still well, and so I’m hoping that we’ll be able to come to conclusion, be able to finish our legislative process as it relates to education `cause there`s still lots of other issues like criminal justice to deal with,” she told News 4.
When asked about ideas for generating revenue or reforms to education for the state she said:
“Well there are a lot of reform ideas we could certainly pursue. We always want to make sure the majority of the money goes to the classroom, to the teachers certainly, and to the salaries and to the classroom itself,” Fallin said. “Continue to try to reduce our administrative costs within our school systems across the state.
She’s hoping the walkout will be over by the end of the week, but said could go longer due to the filing date of April 11-13.
“Well, I’m hoping it will end soon. I mean, my preference would be by the end of the this week, although I have heard a lot of talk at the Capitol that there’s a filing date for candidates to be able to run for office, and so there’s kind of a political side to where there are some people wanting to extend it on until the filing this month of legislative races,” Fallin said.