'We Need to Face Reality': Oklahoma Teachers' Union Ends the Walkout
The Oklahoma Education Association is ending the nine-day statewide teacher walkout, calling the work stoppage a "historic victory" despite not achieving all of its goals.
"We recognize that our formal efforts to lobby elected leaders have achieved all that we will be able to accomplish this legislative session," OEA President Alicia Priest said in a statement. "OEA is a member-driven, representative organization, and while we are shifting our focus and efforts, we are supporting educators who decide to continue the walkout or those who decide to return to their classrooms. We want every school district to continue sending lobby teams to the capitol."
Several districts, including Oklahoma City, have already canceled classes for Friday, and Priest said teachers in those districts should use the day as a day of action, although the legislature will not be in session. The Tulsa school district has announced it will resume classes on Tuesday and teachers will return to work on Monday.
In a Facebook poll last night, almost 7,000 people said they would not consider the walkout to be over if OEA said it was, without securing additional school funding. Much of this walkout has been driven by teachers on social media, so it's unclear if all educators will immediately heed OEA's call to return to the classroom.
But in a news conference, Priest said 70 percent of OEA members are unsure if continuing a walkout will gain additional funding for public schools. Lawmakers, Priest said, are unwilling to consider any additional revenue bills.
"We need to face reality," she said. "We have seen no significant legislative movement since last Friday."
The union estimates that the effort has secured $479 million in education funding for the next school year. That includes a $6,100 pay raise for teachers. Still, that's less than what the union had initially asked for, which included a $10,000 pay raise over three years.
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers will hold a vote to see whether its members will return to the classroom.
"We are proud of what we have accomplished, but truthfully there's no one left to negotiate with in the statehouse," said Oklahoma City AFT President Ed Allen in a statement.
Image: Kara Walk, left, assistant principal in the Putnam City district, and Ivana Beatty, assistant principal in the Oklahoma City district, gather protest signs to dispose of outside the state capitol after the Oklahoma Education Association called for an end to the school walkout. —Sue Ogrocki/AP