In The Know: Oklahoma teachers’ walkout gains momentum in its 2nd week

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’ walkout gains momentum in its 2nd week: Emboldened by support from across the country, Oklahoma teachers swarmed the state Capitol for a second week in their unrelenting quest for more school funding. And by some accounts, Monday’s crowd was the biggest yet. Hundreds of schools closed Monday as teachers demanded $150 million more to replace dilapidated, decades-old textbooks and fund elective courses [CNN]. State Funding Crisis and the Teacher Walkout: Resources & Information [OK Policy].

Nearly 200 female attorneys march to statehouse as protesters crowd Capitol again: Nearly 200 female attorneys descended Monday on the state Capitol in an attempt to resolve a statewide teacher walkout that appeared to surge in strength in its sixth day. Dressed in all black and led by a high school drumline, the lawyers made their way about 10 a.m. from the Oklahoma Bar Association’s office through thousands of cheering teachers who lined their path along Lincoln Boulevard to the Capitol [Tulsa World].

State agencies say they have funding needs, too: Teachers rallying for education have been grabbing the headlines, but other state agencies say they have funding needs, too. Following years of budget cuts, the heads of agencies that serve the state’s most vulnerable populations of mentally ill, abused children and prison inmates talk of the need for millions of dollars in additional funding [NewsOK].

How tax cuts for the rich led to the Oklahoma teachers strike: The Oklahoma teachers strike is now in its second week — but it was a long time in the making. In the mid-2000s, the Oklahoma state legislature approved several tax cuts that largely helped the rich. “That was a time when the economy was booming and oil prices were high, and for a time it looked like you could have it all,” said David Blatt, who runs the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank [Vox].

Repeal the state capital gains exemption, not the hotel/motel tax: The Oklahoma Education Association has specified two demands to end the statewide teachers’ strike that has closed Oklahoma schools for seven days. The teachers demand that Gov. Mary Fallin veto a bill that would repeal a $5 state hotel/motel tax and that lawmakers pass a bill to repeal a state capital gains exemption and use the savings there for education funding [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. Oklahoma should not waste millions on capital gains tax break to protect small part that might benefit agriculture [OK Policy].

Seeking Education Funding, Oklahoma Republicans Go After Wind Tax Credit: A group of Republican Oklahoma lawmakers wants to put a hard cap on the state’s zero-emissions tax credit. Sens. Nathan Dahm and Josh Brecheen and Rep. Jeff Coody propose making the credit, which is popular with wind energy companies, nonrefundable as of Jan. 1, 2019. Dahm said the state needs more money for core services like education, and an annual payout of around $70 million is a good place to start looking [Public Radio Tulsa].

State superintendent extends test deadline; MPS adjusts schedule: The Oklahoma State Department of Education announced on Monday it will extend the state testing window one week beyond the original deadline. McAlester Public Schools Superintendent Randy Hughes said he believes the extension will allow students to adjust to the classroom setting before testing begins [McAlester News-Capital].

How We Got Here: A teacher walkout podcast: This week, the podcast team talks about the primary story in Oklahoma: an ongoing teacher walkout that has packed the Capitol with educators advocating for increased education funding. NonDoc’s editor in chief speaks with Bryan Fried and Spencer Guinn of FKG Consulting in a teacher walkout podcast recorded Thursday afternoon, one day before the Oklahoma State Senate sent three bills to the governor [NonDoc].

Oklahoma Girl Gets Textbook Once Used by Blake Shelton: A 7-year-old is excited she has a textbook that was used by country singer Blake Shelton, but her mom is embarrassed the book is nearly than 40 years old. Marley Parker saw that “The Voice” star had written his name in “Look Away (Keys to Reading)” in 1982. However, her mother did not share her daughter’s enthusiasm. Shelly Bryan Parker wrote on Facebook that she was embarrassed [AP].

The deeper cause behind the school strikes: Teachers are competing with the elderly: To those paying attention, the recent strikes for higher teachers’ pay in West Virginia and Oklahoma are a harbinger of things to come. You can attribute the strikes to the stinginess of the states’ political leaders. After all, average annual teachers’ salaries in these states ranked, respectively, 49th-lowest (Oklahoma at $45,276) and 48th-lowest (West Virginia, $45,622) in 2016, reports the National Education Association. But that’s the superficial explanation. The deeper cause is that teachers — and schools — are competing with the elderly for scarce funds [Washington Post].

Former Sooner Trent Ratterree at ground zero of Oklahoma’s education movement: In his old life as an Oklahoma Sooner, Trent Ratterree caught touchdown passes against Florida State and forced fumbles against Oklahoma State. This seemed to mean so much to so many people in his home state. His new life has him hunkered down at the state Capitol, organizing and advocating on behalf of the Oklahoma Education Association [Tulsa World]. Trent is a former OK Policy Intern! Apply to be a 2018 summer intern [OK Policy].

Fentanyl added to Oklahoma trafficking law: Gov. Mary Fallin has signed a bill adding fentanyl to the list of drugs that can trigger felony prosecution for drug traffickers. Senate Bill 1078 was the first recommendation of the Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse to be signed into law. Attorney General Mike Hunter created the commission to study and recommend policy, like the one that now goes into effect Nov. 1 [NewsOK].

Potential Oklahoma E-Prescribing Law Still up in the Air: Members of the Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse hope an electronic prescribing law makes it to the governor’s desk this session. E-prescribing can help fight opioid abuse by making forged prescriptions nearly impossible, but how Oklahoma will implement it is still being worked out. The state House and Senate are on track to convene a conference committee to cobble competing proposals into one law [Public Radio Tulsa].

Oklahoma Senators Stand Behind Scandal Plagued Scott Pruitt: As mounting reports and accusations of unethical spending continue to plague Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s Senators are continuing their full-throated support of the embattled former Attorney General. Since the spring of 2017, dozens of reports have raised questions about Pruitt’s spending of millions in taxpayer dollars on round-the-clock security, a soundproof phone booth and pricey first-class travel [News 9].

Oklahoma orders cut to disposal well volumes following quakes: Oklahoma regulators forced an oil and gas producer to reduce operations on a well used for disposing saltwater following a large earthquake over the weekend that set off a series of seismic activity in the state, Matt Skinner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), said on Monday [Reuters].

Quote of the Day

“Part of me that’s a rabble-rouser thinks if we are sitting here in a month, maybe the whole state will feel the intense economic impact of our state underfunding education for 10 years — it would be undeniable.”

– Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman, on the possibility of an extended teacher walkout (Source)

Number of the Day


The amount of state revenues lost due to corporations taking the capital gains deduction. This tax incentive costs Oklahoma more than $100 million on personal income tax deductions, but the Oklahoma Tax Commission provides no public data about its use in corporate income tax filings.

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Myth of the Criminal Immigrant: The Trump administration’s first year of immigration policy has relied on claims that immigrants bring crime into America. President Trump’s latest target is sanctuary cities. As of 2017, according to Gallup polls, almost half of Americans agreed that immigrants make crime worse. But is it true that immigration drives crime? Many studies have shown that it does not [New York Times].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

One thought on “In The Know: Oklahoma teachers’ walkout gains momentum in its 2nd week

  1. If you think the Wash Post is liberal and stands against the powers that be, read the article above that ignores military spending, tax breaks and welfare for the rich, and the couple of billions of dollars that the paper’s owner’s other company (a side business called Amazon) has with the CIA. That that paper sees education spending and spending to maintain benefits like Social Security and Medicare in opposition says all you need to know about how Washington DC is just a slicker version of what the teachers are facing at OK’s own capitol.

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