In The Know: State braces for Day Two of teacher walkout

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

State braces for Day Two of teacher walkout: It’s unclear what the ongoing teacher walkout will look like Tuesday, but it will happen. Several districts, including Oklahoma City and Edmond public schools, announced that they will be closed another day. As teachers left the Capitol complex Monday afternoon, signs in hand, they said to each other, “See you tomorrow.” There is plenty of work left to do. Lawmakers still have to replace the $50 million hotel tax that they repealed out of the revenue package that pays for teacher pay increases, public employee and support staff pay increases and a classroom funding increase [Journal Record]. State Funding Crisis and the Teacher Walkout: Resources & Information [OK Policy].

Hundreds of state employees marched, too: Scattered among thousands of teachers at the Oklahoma Capitol were state agency employees with similar goals in mind: more money for a pay raise, more money for state government. Like teachers, the state workers were given a pay raise last week by the Legislature. House Bill 1024 passed in special session but has yet to be signed by Gov. Mary Fallin. If she does sign the bill, it would give employees making up to $40,000 annually a $2,000 raise with less of a raise for higher-paid workers [NewsOK]. Frustrations Abound As State Offices Close, Workers Walk Out Alongside Teachers [News On 6]. 

Teachers are walking out in multiple states. Blame GOP economics: There’s a revolt beginning among the nation’s schoolteachers, one that could well pick up momentum and spread around the country. Or it might be more properly understood as a revolt among teachers in states governed by Republicans, although it’s almost never framed that way in the news media. But that’s exactly what it is [Washington Post]. Oklahoma has many good options to resolve the teacher walkout [OK Policy].

Oklahoma’s rich energy fields not enough for state’s teachers: The 28th richest person in America was there the night Oklahoma raised his taxes, and he was not happy. Some of the poorest teachers in America were also there as the lawmakers voted. And while this bill would move money from the billionaire’s pockets to their own, when it passed … they weren’t happy either. They had organized on Facebook, marched on the State House and threatened to walk out of classrooms en masse [CNN]. Some Oklahoma schools remained open during Monday’s teacher walkout [NewsOK].

Tempers stay cool at Capitol as thousands of teachers descend on lawmakers: The Oklahoma Capitol got a little crowded on Monday, and sometimes a little heated, but in the end just about everybody kept their cool. “It was a crazy day, but a good day,” said Rep. Jadine Nollan, R-Sand Springs. “I had so many people I got to talk with.” In fact, so many came to Nollan’s tiny fourth-floor office she led a large group down the hall to the House Lounge, which is usually off-limits to the public, to make discussion easier [Tulsa World].

TPS officials to decide on daily basis whether to keep schools closed for walkout: Reaffirming its support for its teachers, the Tulsa School Board said on Monday that it will continue making decisions one day at a time on how long district schools will be allowed to remain closed to accommodate the statewide teacher walkout. “The feedback I’ve been getting on this is that now is the time to make a reasonable first step in restoring funding … back to where we were a decade ago,” said board member Gary Percefull at the Monday regular board meeting [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma teachers critique lawmakers while House ‘division’ brews: As local and national news outlets flocked to cover Oklahoma teachers walking out of their schools Monday, the door of Sen. Rob Standridge’s office burst open to a packed reception area to reveal a growing trend: four distraught educators disappointed in their senator for voting against their new pay raise. One teacher stormed into the hallway, chanting “Vote him out!” while another solemnly fought back tears and followed behind [NonDoc].

Historic Tax Bill ‘Took A Lot Of Courage’ To Pass, OK Governor Says: Monday, hundreds of school districts across Oklahoma shut down as thousands of educators and education supporters protested at the state capitol for an increase in education funding. The Oklahoma Education Association said the school shutdown will continue until lawmakers “commit to funding our children’s future.” [News On 6]

Teachers, students crowd Capitol: Hope Davis, a 15-year-old student from Moore, held up a textbook that is only three years younger than she is. She and her classmates depend on books that old every day. As she leaned into the microphone, she lamented not only that book, which says that the president is still George W. Bush, but also the class sizes to which she and her peers have had to adjust. Her high school geometry class had 38 students packed into it. That stressor proved too difficult for the teacher, who resigned mid-semester [Journal Record].

At Education March, Signs All Around, with a Touch of Wit: Other than the chants and the speeches – and, of course, the people – the dominant feature of Monday’s education march at the State Capitol was the ubiquity of signs and posters. The cleverness of many of them showed how teachers, students and supporters pulled out all the stops to craft messages for media attention and maximum effect [Oklahoma Watch].

The failure to govern: Public education is a foundation of our democracy. Everyone deserves the right to a good education. The Oklahoma Legislature will try to fund a short-term spending bill to provide teachers a long-overdue raise only when the teachers threaten to strike. As the business community, the public community, we need to care. The budget crisis and inept fiscal management goes far beyond education [Phil G. Busey Sr. / Journal Record].

Signs of progress on reducing barriers to work in Oklahoma: Last fall, we told you about the work of the Oklahoma Occupational Licensing Task Force, a group of leaders from the Legislature, state agencies, and private businesses that formed in 2016 to study occupational licensing in the state. The task force’s recommendations are now popping up in legislation this session, and this is very welcome news [OK Policy].

Daily Q&A: Measurement methods behind Oklahoma’s low rankings in student achievement: When Superintendent (Joy) Hofmeister’s plan for state compliance with the new federal law was adopted in September, I began analyzing all parts of this latest effort to improve schools. As a small-business owner for more than 30 years, my concern is the impact low national rankings in education have on our economic development. At least now we have a goal of ranking among the top 20 states in student performance by 2025 [NewsOK].

EPA’s Pruitt lived in DC condo connected to energy lobbyist: The head of the Environmental Protection Agency lived in a Capitol Hill condominium linked to a prominent Washington lobbyist whose firm represents a roster of fossil fuel companies. ABC News first reported Thursday that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had been living in a building on a leafy street about a block from the U.S. Capitol [AP].

Quote of the Day

“It’s almost like the oil and gas people have more say than the people that actually voted (lawmakers) in. Because it shouldn’t be a struggle to fund education. Every time they cut the Gross Production Tax, it’s almost like they’re saying oil is more important than our kids.”

– Stillwater teacher Alberto Morejon, who started an Oklahoma teacher walkout Facebook page that quickly grew to tens of thousands of members, adding to the momentum for the Capitol demonstration that started yesterday (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma likely voters who agree that too many Americans are sent to prison instead of using alternatives to incarceration.

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

When Professionals Rise Up, More Than Money Is at Stake: When 20,000 West Virginia teachers staged a rare statewide walkout, questions of pay and benefits dominated the headlines. But those concerns could not fully account for the teachers’ ferocious resolve. After all, stagnant wages and receding benefits have been an issue for workers for decades. The missing variable appears to have been anxiety about their status as professionals [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.

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