Oklahoma teachers spend spring break at the capitol

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OKLAHOMA CITY – It wasn’t the spring break teachers had planned.

Many spent their Monday lobbying at the Oklahoma State Capitol to avoid a teacher walkout.

“Currently, they still have two weeks to put something on that table,” said Eric Winkler, president of Putnam City Association of Classroom Teachers. “If not, teachers are prepared to walk.”

Teachers traded in their vacations for a chance to advocate on behalf of a teacher pay hike.

“My textbooks are from the 80s and the 90s, and we barely get to use them and we don’t have any funding to replace that,” said Michael Rowley, Midwest City High School teacher.

Rowley said he had to lobby for a change in teacher pay.

With handwritten cards in their hands, the teachers are hoping to see some changes.

“We wanted to make sure our representatives know that we are not wanting a walkout to happen,” Rowley said.

Rowley supports the Oklahoma Education Association’s plan for a $10,000 teacher raise and $5,000 raise for support staff.

Ginger Tinney doesn’t think the plan will work, so she has another in mind.

“So, the plan we have is realistic,” Tinney said. “It’s not fake. It’s not fluffery. It’s real, and I believe it’s going to get passed.”

The Professional Oklahoma Educators was also lobbying Monday.

The group is pushing a plan unveiled last week by Speaker Charles McCall.

The proposal would raise starting pay for teachers by 5 percent for next school year.

By the sixth year, teacher salaries in Oklahoma would be more than $42,000. Those who served more than 25 years could see about $60,000.

“I think it’s the only viable plan, and I don’t want our teachers to walk away and have nothing,” Tinney said.

Tinney said the plan would take the place of the salary schedule so it’s funded.

So far, teachers don’t support the proposal.

“That is something that is six years down the road,” Winkler said. “We’re losing people this year.”

Republican leadership said they believe a pay raise can be done this session – just not the one OEA wants.

“I don’t think there’s a path to get a $10,000 pay raise this week,” Rep. Jon Echols said.

Echols sees maybe a $3,000 or $5,000 raise this session.

While Democrats said something needs be done.

“I do know we have to have something, and it needs to be this legislative session,” said Rep. Jason Dunnington.

The POE plan does not include a raise for support staff.

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