As Oklahoma Teacher Walkout Continues, Teachers May Sign Up to Run for Office
The Oklahoma teacher walkout will continue on Wednesday for the eighth school day—but an end might be in sight as teachers consider their next steps.
Still, teachers received a setback on Tuesday night when Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill that repeals a $5 tax on hotel and motel stays, which would have generated about $42 million in education funding. She also signed two bills—a sales tax on Amazon vendors and a bill that allows casinos to have ball and dice table games—that will generate an estimated $40.5 million in education funding. In a tweet, Fallin said those bills will replace the revenue from the hotel/motel tax "to help fund teacher pay raises and increased education funding."
The Oklahoma Education Association had called for her to veto the tax repeal—one of two demands OEA has made to end the walkout.
"Gov. Fallin has spent years doing far too little for public education, so it's no surprise that she took measures to further neglect students today," OEA President Alicia Priest said in a statement. "The governor and lawmakers keep closing the door on revenue options when Oklahomans are asking for a better path forward."
OEA's other demand is for the legislature to find $50 million in additional revenue for education. One option would be eliminating the capital gains deduction, but the house has repeatedly voted down a motion to force a floor vote on the measure.
Another option would be wind tax-credit reform, which could generate about $70 million for schools. Lawmakers have been skeptical that this bill will pass the legislature.
The Bartlesville school district—a large suburban school district outside of Tulsa whose leaders have been active in the walkout movement—announced it would reopen on Thursday. The walkout had forced the district to push back its last day of class and reschedule the ACT test date from April 3 to April 24. Students will begin state testing next week.
"We are ready to be back in school," said Chuck McCauley, the superintendent. "Our community has been steadfast in its support for its schools, and we look forward to continuing the momentum on behalf of our students."
The first step, he said, will be on Wednesday, as teacher-candidates file to run for state office. Local news reporters have said that many teachers plan to run, in what may be a repeat of the "teacher caucus" in 2016. That election season, more than 40 teachers filed to run. About five of those teachers won those races.
See a PBS NewHour video of Oklahoma teachers running for state legislature positions in 2016:
The state's two largest districts—Oklahoma City and Tulsa—announced they would be closed on Wednesday, but haven't made any plans beyond that. Most of the state's 500 districts are already back in school.
Still, the crowd at the state capitol hasn't dwindled, according to local reports. Some districts are open, but are sending contingents of teachers to the capitol each day—the Bartlesville district will do that as well.
The wave of teacher activism across the country is spurring more educators to run for office. In Kentucky, at least 40 educators have filed to run for office—a number the former president of the Kentucky Education Association said was "unprecedented."
This post was updated at 11 pm with news that Fallin signed the tax repeal.
Image: Teachers and supporters continue their walk circling the state Capitol as protests continue over school funding on April 10 in Oklahoma City. —Sue Ogrocki/AP