In The Know: Oklahoma Teachers to Lawmakers: Raise Pay by April 1 or We Shut Schools

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Oklahoma Teachers to Lawmakers: Raise Pay by April 1 or We Shut Schools: The largest union for teachers in Oklahoma gave lawmakers in the cash-strapped state an April 1 deadline to approve pay raises for some of the lowest-paid educators in the country or face a shutdown of public schools, its president said on Wednesday. The move came a day after teachers in West Virginia ended a nine-day strike that closed schools statewide, with officials approving a 5 percent pay raise for all state workers [Reuters]. The West Virginia teachers strike is over, but Oklahoma and Arizona may be next [Vox]. Final countdown: A real-time ticker for teacher walkout [NonDoc]. 

In Oklahoma You Can Make More Money Working at a Gas Station Than as a Teacher: In Oklahoma, the average annual income for a high school teacher is $42,460. Many make much less. Larry Cagle, who teaches an Advanced Placement course at Edison Preparatory School in Tulsa, says he makes just $34,500 a year working for one of the best schools in the state. Inspired by the collective bargaining in West Virginia, he is organizing a group of Oklahoma teachers to begin a strike of their own [CNBC]. Fewer Oklahoma college students going into teaching profession [KFOR].  Politifact Check: Are Oklahoma’s teachers the lowest paid? And how much did energy industry receive in tax breaks? [Tulsa World]. 2018 Policy Priority: Increase Teacher Pay [OK Policy].

Students Stage Walkout; District Readies for More: About 200 students walked out of John Marshall Mid-High School on Wednesday morning to raise gun violence awareness. Oklahoma City Public Schools backed the demonstration, organized by eighth-graders Jaime Richardson and Paisley Lonebear in response to last month’s deadly school shooting in Florida [NewsOK].

Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform Calls for More Action from State Officials: The group behind a 2016 state question letting Oklahomans reclassify drug possession as a misdemeanor said Wednesday criminal justice reforms coming this legislative session won’t cut it. Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform Chairman Kris Steele said the sentencing and parole reforms promoted this week by the governor, Republican leaders and district attorneys have been watered down from a task force’s recommendations made last year. [Public Radio Tulsa]. Kris Steele seeks ‘transparency’ on criminal justice reform agreement [NonDoc]. 2018 Policy Priority: Pass smart on crime reforms [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: A No-Brainer: As Oklahoma lawmakers continue to search for new revenues to avoid crippling budget cuts and make desperately needed investments, they seem to have few easy options. But what if there was a tax break costing the state over $100 million every year and benefiting just 1 percent of households? What if nearly two-thirds of that benefit went to fewer than 1,000 households making over $1 million a year, while the vast majority of Oklahomans, those making under $100,000 a year, shared less than 10 percent? [David Blatt / Journal Record]. 2018 Policy Priority: End the capital gains tax break [OKPolicy]. Support SB 1086 to repeal the capital gains tax deduction [OKPolicy]. 

House Republicans Retain McCall as Speaker: In a closed-door meeting Wednesday, fellow House Republicans designated Speaker Charles McCall to lead their caucus again in 2019. Details of the vote were not revealed and McCall’s office declined requests for comment following the noon-time vote. Several Republican House members are known to have challenged McCall, including representatives Chad Caldwell of Enid, Charles Ortega of Altus and Tommy Hardin of Madill. McCall has taken some criticism because of his inability to muster the three-fourths majorities needed to pass revenue bills in the House, and from fiscal hard-liners who oppose such proposals altogether [Tulsa World].

Bill Would Add Work Requirement for Medicaid Recipients: Several Oklahoma officials are pushing to take advantage of an opportunity the Trump administration gave states to cut down on Medicaid enrollment. The administration opened the program to waivers, which allow states to make changes to their own Medicaid administrations that would have been illegal in the past. One of the changes gaining the most traction in Oklahoma is the addition of a work requirement [Journal Record]. Oklahoma ​should avoid the temptation to pass new medicaid​ restrictions​ [OKPolicy]. 2018 Policy Priority: Stop proposed medicaid work restrictions [OKPolicy].

Oklahoma House Advances ‘Consent and Healthy Relationship Education’ Measure: A bill its author said gives school districts the option of incorporating “consent and healthy relationship education” into professional development, and to develop “rape or sexual assault response” procedures made it through the Oklahoma House of Representatives Wednesday. The bill was approved despite objections from conservatives who said it could lead to the distribution of contraceptives to minors and promotion of “LGBTQ and transgenderism” [Tulsa World].

“Our Focus Is to Focus on the People Who Are Sick,” Debate Continues over Medical Marijuana in Oklahoma: In June, Oklahoma voters will head to the polls to vote on State Question 788. Right now, there’s debate at the State Capitol to see if the ballot initiative has enough support from voters. “If the voters want it, God be with them,” said August Rivera with Oklahomans Against 788 [KFOR]. OKPolicy recently released a fact sheet on State Question 788: Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative [OKPolicy].

Legislative Prayers Spark Controversy, Changes in Oklahoma: Oklahoma’s House speaker said Wednesday he plans changes to a program in which pastors deliver prayers and sermons to legislators amid criticism from interfaith leaders and some members that non-Christians are being denied an opportunity to participate. House Speaker Charles McCall said the plan is to align the program with those of the U.S. House, which has a chaplain who delivers a daily prayer and also coordinates a guest minister program for visiting clergy [AP News].

Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association Provides NARCAN to Help Save Lives: The aforementioned life-saving substance with the ability to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose is NARCAN Nasal Spray, or naloxone. The Oklahoma Sheriffs Association is outfitting every Oklahoma sheriff and their deputies with a supply of the drug in addition to trainings to ensure the drug is administered properly [NonDoc].

Oklahoma Police Pension Offices Searched as Agents Take Next Step in Embezzlement Investigation: The executive director of the Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement System has come under investigation after an anonymous tip. Steven K. Snyder is suspected of misusing thousands of dollars from operational funds on personal travel and other things, The Oklahoman has learned [NewsOK].

Concerns about city water erupt again: A chart and data are circulating on the internet indicating Tahlequah’s drinking water may contain dangerously high levels of Chromium-6, but local officials say no citations to that effect have been issued. Jerry Linn, superintendent of Tahlequah Public Works Authority’s water treatment facilities, said that in his 18 years of service, no violations have been cited indicating too much of the contaminant in the water system [Tahlequah Daily Press].

New from Oklahoma Watch: ‘Know Your Legislators’: Oklahoma Watch has launched a new tool that allows readers to dig a little deeper about their state senators and representatives. “Know Your Legislators” provides basic facts, links to social media, a link to financial disclosure statements, highest degree earned, top donors to their campaigns, answers to three questions (if they answered), and more. Plus a legislator look-up [Oklahoma Watch].

Three-Year DACA, Border Security Deal Blocked in Senate: A temporary extension of a key Obama-era immigration program was blocked Tuesday in the Senate as lawmakers struggle to break a stalemate. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) tried to pass legislation that would extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for three years while providing $7.6 billion in border security funding [The Hill]. Edmondson: No compelling reason to help Feds deport “Dreamers” [NewsOK]. Congress must pass the Dream Act to protect young Oklahomans and our economy [OK Policy].

Quote of the Day

“I am struggling to pay my bills. A student graduating from my class can become a QuikTrip full-time employee a year, two years later, making more than me.”

– Larry Cagle, who teaches an Advanced Placement course at Edison Preparatory School in Tulsa and is currently organizing a group of Oklahoma teachers to begin a strike of their own. (Source)

Number of the Day


Amount by which the uninsured rate for opioid-related hospitalizations fell in Medicaid expansion states. In states that didn’t expand coverage, including Oklahoma, the uninsured rate for opioid-related hospitalizations fell by just 5 percent.

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

This State Saved $240 Million in Health Care Spending: In 2009, the Oregon legislature established the Patient-Centered Primary Care Home (PCPCH) program. This is a voluntary program through which primary care clinics can receive recognition for implementing standards of care from a tiered menu. A diverse group of health care professionals from around the state met to design the standards. Since that time, dedicated teams of professionals in Oregon have devoted resources to implementing the PCPCH Program standards in their daily operations. [Route Fifty].

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

One thought on “In The Know: Oklahoma Teachers to Lawmakers: Raise Pay by April 1 or We Shut Schools

  1. Take a look at the State constitution!!!
    Educators have the means there to recoup the $10 million the legislature got caught stealing from education (Section X-41 Subsection C) and champion a state question to get the per capita spend per student increased from the $42 amount established in 1946 by state question 225 (Section XIII-1a). Part of the new state question needs to be the requirement that all monies earmarked for education under Article XI, Article XIII, and Article X be put in a lockbox so the legislature can’t take money away from education.
    Include a clause to increase per capital funding by a set percentage each year, 1-2%, or maybe the cost of living. It doesn’t sound like much, but it will add up quickly.

    The State Legislature needs to be held accountable and taught a lesson.

    Demand an audit to show what the per capital funding is. That $42 is IN ADDITION to the funding mandated in Article XI, which does not specify amounts.
    Lottery funds can be used for teacher’s raises and retirement funding per subsection B of Section X-41. They have already violated the State constitution by taking that $10 million away last year. File a class action lawsuit if all schools and education associations and teachers union for violation of X-41C: “The Legislature shall appropriate funds from the Oklahoma Education Lottery Fund only for the purposes specified in subsection B of this section. Even when the funds from the trust fund are used for these purposes, the Legislature shall NOT use funds from the trust fund to supplant or replace other state funds supporting common education, higher education, or career and technology education.”

    It’s not an overnight fix but it will be a more permanent solution to this ongoing problem.

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