OEA ends strike after some districts call teachers back to work
Published: April 12th, 2018
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma public school teachers strike ended today, but most tax-financed schools in the Sooner State will not resume classes until next week.
The Oklahoma Education Association, the state’s largest labor union, announced at a press conference held Thursday afternoon (April 12) it would end the job action, which was supported by school boards and superintendents in the state’s largest tax-financed school districts.
Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), released a statement, sent to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations, shortly after the OEA made its announcement.
“We are glad that teachers received a needed pay raise. Now, for the sake of the most vulnerable, we must focus on transformational reforms.
“Since 2015, lawmakers have increased taxes and other revenue by more than $1 billion, including increases of $610 million since March 29, 2018 alone.
“Now that teachers have received a pay raise, we must focus on reforms that will empower teachers and local school districts to use funds to best meet the needs of students.”
OCPA, the state’s largest market-oriented research group, has proposed a variety of teacher pay hikes in recent years, but for the most part its proposals were not aimed at increasing levies on taxpayers (https://capitolbeatok.worldsecuresystems.com/reports/a-look-at-those-who-lobby-at-the-state-capitol-for-public-education-including-tax-increases).
One OCPA proposal unveiled in February would have increased the gross production tax and tobacco levies (https://capitolbeatok.worldsecuresystems.com/reports/ocpa-offers-a-plan-that-can-pass-including-oklahoma-teacher-pay-increase).
Earlier on Thursday, the Oklahoma Public Employees Association (OPEA) had announced it would no larger participate in the “walkout.”
Ben Felder of The Oklahoma reported OPEA President Sterling Zearley’s comments at mid-day: “State employees have been at the Capitol since April 2 to support all core services, including education. Recent discussions focus solely on education funding and exclude public safety, veterans’ services, mental health, protective services or any other state agency services.” http://newsok.com/article/5590683
Before the OEA announcement, the Norman and Putnam City public school districts had announced school would resume on Monday (April 16). However, schools in the two systems will remain closed on Friday (April 13). El Reno system plans to resume classes on Monday, as well.
The Moore and Shawnee districts resumed classes on Thursday. The Chickasha system will re-open on Friday, officials said before the OEA announcement.
The Oklahoma City Public School system, the state’s largest, had announced, before the union ended the strike, it would remain closed on Friday. The spokeswoman for the system confirmed Thursday evening, in repsonse to a question from this reporter, the city schools would remain closed tomorrow.
In press releases sent to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations, Oklahoma City leaders said time missed “will be made up by either adding up to one hour to future instructional days or, if needed, … days beyond May 31 to the instructional calendar. OKCPS is still finalizing the plan to make up days for students and staff, and we will share that as soon as possible.”