State’s largest teachers union outlines demands, threatens walkout state enidnews.com cse education level

OKLAHOMA CITY — teachers threatened thursday to walk out of classrooms and force school closures starting april 2 unless lawmakers find a way to increase state spending by nearly $1.5 billion.

“schools will stay closed until we get what we’re asking for,” said alicia priest, president of oklahoma education association, the state’s largest teachers union that represents thousands of educators across oklahoma.

After years of doing more with less — educating students with out-of-date curriculum and no textbooks and cramming classrooms so full of students that teachers can’t provide necessary, individualized attention — it’s time to demand change, priest said. Meanwhile, thousands of educators are leaving the state or the profession in search of better-paying opportunities, she said.

“we want them to pass a budget that includes a meaningful pay raise for education support professionals, for teachers and state employees,” priest said.Pass budget “we want them to pass a budget that turns around decades of underfunding and budget cuts and begins reinvesting in our public schools and our essential state services.”

Under state law, the legislature is required to pass a budget funding education by april 1, priest said. If lawmakers fail to comply with state law, teachers will walk out of classrooms, she said.

"Across our state, the last several months have been filled with much discussion about the need for a teacher pay raise," he said in a statement released thursday. "From nearby coffee shops to online social media, oklahomans have made it clear that we must address this critical issue. Our teachers deserve better.

"The time is now for our legislators to act. I have invested many hours since mid-february talking with superintendents from across oklahoma about this urgent issue, as well as meeting with state and local leaders of educational organizations, including, most importantly, the enid education association," floyd said. "It has been beneficial for me to hear their perspectives, ideas and concerns.Public school I believe we share a common, sincere hope that this situation can be resolved quickly for the benefit of school employees and without a negative impact to our students. I will ask our board of education members monday night to approve a resolution asking state leaders to pass with urgency legislation that will increase pay for teachers and support employees, as well as improve operational education funding. I am grateful our local legislators have voted for teacher pay raises in the past, and I encourage them to stay the course until the job is done.

"Many organizations are creating plans to solve the teacher pay problem, and some believe a teacher walkout is the only solution. I am still optimistic that this can be avoided. The goal is not a teacher walkout; the goal is a teacher pay raise and improved education funding — and we must make this happen.Pass budget at this time, it is critical that we encourage everyone —friends, neighbors, area parents, etc. — to contact legislators to let them know this issue must be addressed now."

“there’s some anger — real, true anger,” he said. “and it’s not just teachers. It’s parents and it’s superintendents and administrators as well.”

Rosecrants, who worked as an oklahoma city public school teacher prior to his election to the state house, said he made only $11,000 working as a teacher’s assistant his first year. And after six years as classroom teacher, he said he made about $35,400 — and that was in one of the better paying school districts.

“there was times where I had to choose, ‘do I put gas in the tank, or do I get food for my kids?’” he said, adding that he drives a 2006 PT cruiser that is falling apart.

Oklahoma’s teacher pay is currently the lowest in the region, experts say.Teacher walkout the average teacher made $44,921 during the 2016-17 school year, according to the state department of education. The regional average was $48,450, the agency reported.

“something massive needs to happen,” rosecrants said. “I think we (the legislature) just need to wake up. We need a wake-up call here at the capitol.”

"I am hopeful that a solution can be found before april 2 deadline," said matthew holtzen, enid high school advanced placement history teacher and OEA member. "Our students deserve a fully funded education, and this includes a $10,000 pay raise for teachers, a $5,000 pay raise for education supports professionals, a COLA for our retired educators, and funding the vital state services our students and their families need. I hope that the legislature will finally do its job and support our public schools, our students, and our educators.Public school

"Too many amazing educators have left the state and the profession due to the legislature’s refusal to act in a responsible manner. The lack of leadership from our legislature on this issue harms the very foundation of our democratic republic."

“contacts that I’ve had from southwest oklahoma, there’s a lot of mixed messages coming out,” said state sen. Mike schulz, R-altus, senate president pro tem. “not all school districts are in favor of this method. Everybody is supportive of increased teacher pay, but mixed messages of how we arrive at that.”

Schulz said he doubts all teachers support a walkout and school closures. And, while he backs giving teachers a raise if lawmakers can figure out how to pay for it, he said the request for a $10,000 pay increase is “very unrealistic.”

Schulz said an annual expenditure estimated to cost $600 million will be a tough sell for lawmakers, particularly in the state house, which hasn’t been able to garner enough votes to even pass revenue-raising measures that would generate $300 million.Teacher walkout

As the teacher’s union prepared for its press conference announcing the planned walkout, the state’s board of education held an emergency meeting to approve legislatively mandated, midyear cuts to public school funding. Common education will lose as much as $16.2 million in funding under the latest budget approved last month by the republican-controlled legislature. The current state budget is about $6.98 billion.

State superintendent joy hofmeister told the board every district will approach the proposed teacher walkout differently. Many districts already are having conversations with their local school boards about adjusting the calendar to allow for advocacy at the capitol.

Under state law, districts have to ensure school is in session a minimum of 1,080 hours or 175 days a year in order to receive state aid. Schools also are federally required to hold state-level assessments, which take up much of april, she said.Priest said

But hofmeister said the state is several years into a “crippling teacher shortage.” as a result, districts across the state have overcrowded classrooms, with nearly 2,000 emergency certification requests since june. Districts are reducing class offerings, and there’s a struggle to recruit students to join the ranks of teacher-training programs.

“let me say this unequivocally: these effects will not be remedied without competitive teacher pay and having that realized for all the teachers in the state,” hofmeister said. “why does this matter? It matters because our children deserve and need a high quality education, and that can’t happen without well-trained and well-equipped teachers.”

Hofmeister’s agency is calling on lawmakers to approve a $5,000 raise for all classroom teachers to bring teacher pay up to the regional average.

“house republicans understand and share the frustration that our public school teachers are experiencing, and we remain committed to finding a way to increase teacher pay this session,” said house speaker charles mccall, R-atoka, in statement.Priest said