“We’re putting lawmakers on notice,” OEA moves up deadline for teacher pay raise, education funding

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- A local association seems to be giving lawmakers a deadline to fund a teacher pay raise before educators stage a walk out.

Oklahoma educators have been weighing in on a potential teacher walkout for months.

"Our board and our community support our teachers. They very strongly support our teachers. That ultimate decision will be up to them," Ranet Tippens, the superintendent for Deer Creek Public Schools, said.

"It's difficult to say, 'Yes, we're for or we're against.' However, we have given our lawmakers opportunities time and time again to do the right thing," Dr. Robert Romines, the superintendent for Moore Public Schools, said.

Now, it seems that teachers across the state are fed up.

On Tuesday night, the Oklahoma Education Association posted to its Facebook page saying in part, "April 23rd will be the deadline for lawmakers to fund pay raises and education needs. After that, schools will shut down."

However, several upset OEA members commented on the post, saying they wanted an earlier deadline. Ultimately, the post was deleted and OEA announced that it was putting together more information about the proposed school closure dates.

"The end goal is not when we, or if we, walkout. The end goal is funding for public education. So the date, really for us, doesn't matter as much. There are strategic reasons why we think the date that we had put up originally was good," OEA President Alicia Priest said.

On Wednesday morning, the OEA announced that a change has been made to that original plan.

"The communication coming out of OEA has not been clear, and for that, I am sorry. I have listened to the anger and frustration of teachers from Atoka to Enid, from Bartlesville all the way to Altus. Our members are ready to act now, and so, we are accelerating our strategy. In fact, this movement is already making an impact. Just last night, we got word that lawmakers are scrambling to come up with a plan that would be unworkable, untenable, and not a solution at all. We will not allow lawmakers to once again shortchange our students, our teachers and our support professionals. So today,  we're putting lawmakers on notice- they must work swiftly to follow the law and pass an education budget by April 1. If that budget doesn't include a meaningful pay raise for teachers and support professionals, and additional funding to restore cuts to Oklahoma classrooms, OEA calls for statewide school closures beginning April 2," Priest said in a Facebook video.

The group 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.

The Oklahoma Education Association claims that nearly 80 percent of survey respondents said they would support a plan to close schools in order to force the legislature to focus on education.

OEA will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. Thursday at OEA headquarters with more information about a potential teacher walkout.

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