Oklahoma Legislature Passes 'Historic' Teacher Pay Raise. But What About the Walkout?
Post updated with more reaction
The Oklahoma state senate passed a "historic" tax increase plan that would fund pay raises for teachers, support staff, and state employees on Wednesday evening, a day after the state house's successful vote.
Gov. Mary Fallin said she would sign the bill.
The plan would fund pay raises of about $6,000 for teachers. The Oklahoma Education Association had demanded a pay raise of $10,000 over three years, along with a $200 million funding boost to public schools. Teachers would walk out of the classroom until they received that raise, the union had promised.
In a statement Wednesday evening, OEA President Alicia Priest called the bill's passage "historic" and "major progress," but added that "this investment alone will not undo a decade of neglect."
Teachers will still walk out and protest at the capitol on Monday, April 2, she said.
"Lawmakers have left funding on the table that could be used immediately to help Oklahoma students," she continued. "There is still work to do to get this legislature to invest more in our students."
The $447 million package passed by both chambers of the legislature includes increases on taxes for cigarettes, motor fuel, hotel and motel lodging, and oil and gas production, according to Koco News 5. It's the first tax increase since 1990, local news reports. The senate passed the bill with a 36-10 vote, and the house voted 79-19—both chambers need a three-fourths majority to pass a tax increase.
It's not clear how long the walkout will last, given the pay raise deal. Teachers expressed mixed emotions, with some saying this was more than the legislature has done for education in decades and others saying it wasn't enough.
In a survey of about 4,600 teachers, support staff, and administrators that was posted on the Oklahoma teacher walkout Facebook group, where much of the organizing has taken place, 70 percent said they do not support the bill passed. Over 80 percent said they would walk out anyway.
And the Oklahoma City branch of the American Federation of Teachers tweeted that according to a survey the group conducted after the senate's vote, most of its members do support the legislature's plan—but 79 percent of members voted to still participate in the walkout.
However, it remains to be seen how strong public support will be for a teacher walkout now. Before the teacher pay increase passed the legislature, most districts across the state had agreed to close schools to support teachers, and support was strong among parents and community members.
Image: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, left, high-fives Sen. Mike Schulz, right, R-Altus, during a news conference following a vote on a package of tax hikes to fund teacher pay raises in Oklahoma City, on March 28. Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, is at center. —Sue Ogrocki/AP