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Survey Shows Support for an Oklahoma Teacher Strike

Nearly 80 percent of respondents of an online survey by the Oklahoma Education Association said they would support shutting down schools to force the legislature to approve a pay increase. The survey results were published Monday on the OEA's website.

Momentum for a strike has been building recently in Oklahoma as teachers have had their hopes for a pay bump dashed time and again. This survey shows that teachers have the will to follow in the footsteps of their striking counterparts in West Virginia, who today have reached an agreement with lawmakers on a pay raise. West Virginia teachers have been on strike since Feb. 22.

The 10,841 survey respondents were made up of OEA members, nonmember education employees, parents, retirees, community members and students. The survey was sent directly to members "a couple of times," according to Doug Folks, a spokesman for the OEA. Others accessed the survey online. Of the 5,602 OEA respondents, 81 percent supported a walkout.  And of the 934 parents who completed the survey, 76 percent supported a strike. See the full breakdown in the charts below.

surveychart1.jpgOverall, 57 percent of survey completers said they thought the community would support a walkout, and 34 percent were unsure.

surveychart2final.jpgOn the possibility of losing their jobs over the strike, 41 percent of all OEA members and nonmember education employees together are not concerned. 

surveychart3.jpgThe survey results are not a surprise considering that Oklahoma teachers are among the lowest paid in the country. Educators, including the state's 2016 Teacher of the Year, are fleeing to neighboring states like Texas, where teachers can command higher pay. One teacher, Teresa Danks, resorted to panhandling for school supplies (in part to raise awareness on Facebook). She recently started a walkout petition on change.org that has so far garnered more than 26,000 signatures.

Among Oklahoma teachers' many disappointments was the defeat in February of the Step Up Oklahoma plan, which would have raised enough money to give teachers a $5,000 annual pay raise by imposing additional taxes on cigarettes, diesel fuel, and wind energy. In November 2016, Oklahoma voters defeated a ballot initiative that would have given most teachers $5,000 pay bumps. Those raises were going to be funded with a new 1 percent state sales tax.

Now Oklahoma teachers are pinning their hopes on a strike. On Thursday, March 8, Oklahoma Education Association will announce details about a new plan for raising revenue to support a pay raise along with a strategy for closing schools in the meantime.

In 2017, OEA members adopted a legislative plan for the 2018 session called "Together We're Stronger." The plan would have given a $10,000 pay raise to Oklahoma teachers over three years, a 5 percent cost-of-living increase for retirees, and increased funding for education to account for a 4 percent growth in enrollment. 

But the legislature failed to advance any bills containing even parts of the "Together We're Stronger" plan, the OEA said in a statement. That's despite thousands of emails and phone calls, days of action at the capitol, and community forums across the state.

Lawmakers' inaction "has lead to this crucial grassroots movement of educators to take drastic efforts to save public education and ensure students receive a quality education that prepares them for the future," said OEA president Alicia Priest in a statement.

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