Will These Two Bills End the Oklahoma Teacher Walkout?
As Oklahoma teachers wrap up day four of the statewide walkout, all eyes are on the state senate—and whether lawmakers there will approve two bills that would generate a total of $40.5 million for education.
The house passed a bill that would place a sales tax on Amazon vendors by a vote of 92 to 7 on Wednesday. That tax would raise about $20.5 million, which would go into the common funding formula for education. The state senate will take up the bill on Friday—a rare move for Oklahoma, where legislators traditionally don't meet on Fridays.
The house vote was "evidence of the momentum created by [teachers'] passionate voices and tireless advocacy," said Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest, in a statement. "This is a win for students and educators and signals major progress toward funding the schools our students deserve."
Last week, the house passed a bill that would allow casinos to have ball and dice table games (instead of just cards or electronic games). That is projected to raise up to $20 million, but it needs a three-fourths majority vote in the senate. State senators will hear that bill on Friday as well.
Already, legislators have passed—and the governor has signed—a tax increase plan that will fund pay raises of about $6,000 for teachers and $50 million in education funding. That funding level fell short of what teachers had requested: a $10,000 pay raise over three years and a $200 million funding boost to public schools.
Now, these two bills might be the last chance teachers have to claim an additional legislative victory this session. KOSU, the local National Public Radio affiliate, reported that the appropriations chairman in the house told legislators that the sales-tax bill was the last new revenue bill they will get to vote on.
The walkout is expected to continue on Friday, and Oklahoman reporter Ben Felder tweeted on Thursday that the crowd at the state capitol was not getting smaller. If these two bills pass, it's unclear if that will be enough to send teachers back to the classroom.
- Fed Up With Low Pay, Oklahoma Teachers Prepare to Walk Out
- Thousands of Teachers. 4 States. Your Guide to the Protests Sweeping the Nation
Image: Students from Moore High School march around the state Capitol in Oklahoma City on April 5, the fourth day of protests over school funding. —Sue Ogrocki/AP