OKLAHOMA CITY – Despite a teachers’ organization calling for an end to the statewide walkout, teachers and supporters say they will continue to rally at the Capitol.
“This is the great thing of what’s happening here, is it isn’t just about OEA,” said Christine Hrubik. “It’s about teachers coming together banding for a common cause and a common goal.”
Hrubik, a teacher at Longfellow Middle School in Norman, was among teachers and parents who showed up at the capitol on Friday despite the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) announcing an end to the walkout on Thursday. The purpose of the walkout was to advocate for more educational funding.
“OEA didn’t give us that leadership that we needed,” she said. They didn’t give us the right numbers that we needed. We’re going come back at this and we’re going to take our math teachers who are amazing and all of our economy teachers and our finance teachers. We’re going to put them in a room and we’re going to make that happen.”
News 4 caught up with OEA vice president Katherine Bishop on Friday.
“When you’re able to sit down with leadership, the Republican party in the Senate and they have absolutely stonewalled any movement forward, there’s a time that you have to shift your focus and continue your advocacy in a different light,” said Bishop.
Prior to April 2, the very first day of the nine-day walkout, a $2.9 billion dollar budget for education had already been signed by Governor Mary Fallin. In that budget, included an average $6,100 pay raise per teacher, which was funded through a $447 million revenue bill. The budget also included roughly $50 million allocated for school funding, such as a textbooks.
Despite measures such as the Marketplace Fairness Act (‘Amazon’ bill) and the ball and dice bill passed during the two-week walkout, the budget for education remained at $2.9 billion. According to Senate majority floor leader Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, the ‘Amazon’ bill would ultimately fund the $2.9 billion budget, not add to it.
“For the last year and a half, probably two years, we said we will only pass a teacher pay raise if it’s fully funded. This is fully funded. It’s funded into the future, and we believe we need to get on the work of criminal justice reform. We need to get on the work of mental health,” Senator Treat said Thursday.
The ‘ball and dice’ bill, which allows for Vegas-style gaming like craps and roulette, is projected to generate about $24 million, but Treat said that will go into the 1017 fund for the Senate to appropriate next session for Fiscal Year 2020.
Still, the OEA said the walkout was a victory. Bishop said that’s because of the conversation leading up to the walkout itself, which she said helped secure revenue in the time it did.
“It is because of their voices that they were going to be here and what they were going to accomplish that helped move this piece of legislation, I really truly feel like that legislature wanted to get it done quickly so people wouldn’t come — that didn’t work,” Bishop said.
Alberto Morejon, a Stillwater teacher who created the Facebook group ‘Oklahoma Teacher Walkout – The Time Is Now’, said he is creating a survey for teachers to take in order to determine exactly how much money they want to ask from the Legislature. Moving forward, he is asking teachers to return to the capitol if schools are out next week. If they are not, he said schools should send delegates.
“We need parents, we need students here. As many as we can get,” Morejon said. “We need parents and students to pair up with a teacher so they can go into these offices with legislators.”