In The Know: Teachers union will offer its own funding plan before strike deadline

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

Teachers Union Will Offer Its Own Funding Plan Before Strike Deadline: As state lawmakers continue to debate how to fund a teacher pay raise, let alone hundreds of millions in new school, health care and state agency funding, the state’s largest teachers union is prepared to unveil its own proposal. “If the Legislature is unable (to pass a funding measure) we are ready to roll one out,” said David DuVall, executive director of the Oklahoma Education Association, which has called for an April 2 teachers strike if more than $800 million in funding demands are not met for next fiscal year [NewsOK]. Hofmeister says walkout now likely. [Public Radio Tulsa]. Why are Cushing, Stroud and other districts not joining the teacher walkout? They took a vote [Tulsa World]. Oklahoma has many good options to resolve the teacher walkout [OKPolicy].

State Funding Crisis and the Teacher Walkout: Resources & Information: Oklahoma teachers and school districts all over the state have vowed that they will shut down schools beginning April 2 if lawmakers do not act to increase teacher pay and funding for education and other core state services. This page compiles resources to help you understand the context for Oklahoma’s teacher walkout, how state finances ended up in this crisis, and what solutions lawmakers can use to resolve the crisis [OKPolicy].

Hamilton: Teacher Walkout About More Than Wages: The pending statewide teacher walkout is oft-portrayed as a simple revolt over the nation’s lowest pay. But it’s so much more than that. Oklahoma’s educators actually are fighting a proxy war on behalf of the 99 percent. It is true that teachers are demanding raises for themselves after a decade of stagnant wages. (So are state employees.) It also true that teachers are fighting to get more money into classrooms to offset the nation’s deepest budget cuts – think: duct-taped textbooks, outdated technology, insufficient supplies. Their cause is righteous for two important reasons [Arnold Hamilton/Journal Record]. Cuts are hitting all aspects of public education [OKPolicy].

Penny Williams: 1990’s dream of educational excellence in Oklahoma was undercut, but it’s time to do it again: I remember, in 1990, when educators, students and community leaders circled the Capitol in a pouring rain and stood their ground. It is time to do it again. That was the tipping point for House Bill 1017, the landmark Oklahoma education funding and reform measure. The great thing about that effort was that bipartisan leadership made it possible [Penny Williams / Tulsa World].

Rolling Coverage: Long-Time Teachers Benefit Most from McCall Pay Plan: The proposed teacher pay plan from House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, former House Education Committee Chair Michael Rogers, R-Broken Arrow, and the Professional Oklahoma Educators would do a lot for long-time teachers who are near retirement but not as much for the entry-level and early career teachers whose pay has driven the debate [Oklahoma Watch].

Surviving Measures to Reform Sq 640 Are a Choice Between Bad and Worse: As we entered the 2018 session, it looked like voters might get the chance to revisit SQ 640, which had been passed by a narrow majority (56 percent) in a low-turnout election a generation ago. A rising swell of voices from both inside and outside the Legislature acknowledged that the state’s supermajority requirement, the most stringent in the nation, has made the state ungovernable by giving a small fraction of lawmakers veto power over the will of the majority [OKPolicy].

News9 Flashback: a Possible Teacher Walkout Has Roots in State’s 1992 Decision: As teachers inch closer to a walkout on April 2, it’s worth looking back at the state question that ultimately made it very difficult, if not impossible, for Oklahoma legislators to pass legislation that would raise revenue. It was State Question 640, which was approved by Oklahomans in 1992 and severely limits the Legislature’s ability to raise taxes [News9]. SQ 640 has made Oklahoma ungovernable [OK Policy].

Town Sues Private Prison Company, Says It Is Owed Nearly $1 Million in Fees: small western Oklahoma town is suing one of the nation’s largest private prison companies, saying the corporation stopped making payments to the town’s industrial authority based on the number of prisoners held at the facility located there. The Sayre Industrial Authority’s lawsuit against CoreCivic, which owns four private prison facilities and several prisoner reentry program sites in Oklahoma, alleges that the company breached its contract with the city by failing to pay nearly $1 million in “impact fees” owed to the city based on the number of prisoners held at the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre since August 2016 [The Frontier].

“Some of the Cells Have No Electric,” Former Inmate Describes Conditions of Oklahoma County Jail: It’s a place he’s been before and he says it’s not suitable for anyone — the Oklahoma County Jail. “They have no consideration at all for the inmates in general there,” said a former inmate, who didn’t want to be identified out of fear of retaliation. “On the 10th floor, approximately 10A, no electric,” he said. “Some of the cells have no electric, wires hanging out of the ceiling.” He also says the building is infested with mold [KFOR].

Why Oklahoma Plans to Execute People with Nitrogen: Oklahoma has always been the nation’s laboratory for capital punishment. It was a state legislator named Bill Wiseman who in 1977 came up with the idea of lethal injection by asking the state medical examiner for a more humane, scientific way to put human beings to death. It looks like Oklahoma might be experimenting again. On Wednesday, the state’s Attorney General and director of corrections announced that a severe nationwide shortage of the drugs needed for lethal injection meant they would be switching to nitrogen inhalation for future executions [The Marshall Project].

Sen. Nathan Dahm Accuses Senate Leadership of Retaliation for His Vote Against Revenue Bill to Pay for Teacher Raises: State Sen. Nathan Dahm said this week that Senate Republican leadership retaliated against him for casting a no vote on a tax-hike package to pay for teacher pay raises. The Broken Arrow Republican, who is running for Congress, posted his remarks in a video on his Facebook page. He could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday. Dahm was among four Republicans who joined eight Democrats last week in voting against a revenue package to pay for a 12.7 percent raise for teachers [Tulsa World].

Bill to Change Incentives for Wind Energy Could Damage State’s Ability to Attract Businesses, Critics Say: A bill that would retroactively cap tax credits for the wind industry could harm the state’s ability to attract and retain businesses, critics say. Legislative panels on Thursday passed House Bill 3710, which would put a $35 million cap on the zero emission tax credit. Last year, lawmakers decided to sunset the tax credit in 10 years for new production. The clock began ticking July 1. Sen. Mary Quinn, R-Claremore, carried the measure before the Senate Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget, where it passed by a vote of 26-12. It also passed a counterpart panel in the House and now heads to the floor [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Lawmakers Taking Shot at Medical Marijuana Regulations Before Vote: The state Legislature is considering significant restrictions on the medical marijuana industry ahead of a statewide vote in June on whether to approve its use. A Senate committee narrowly approved a host of regulations, including a limit on how many businesses can be licensed to manufacture and sell medical marijuana. Senate Bill 1120 would also let the Oklahoma Board of Health set the price of each dose a patient buys [NewsOK].

Faith and Firearms: Oklahoma Churches and Legislators Grapple with Security in Age of Mass Shooters: House Bill 2632, a measure that would extend the state’s Stand Your Ground law to places of worship, passed the Oklahoma House easily and is now in the Senate. Rep. Greg Babinec, R-Cushing, sponsored the bill…Under HB 2632, authorities would presume a worshiper who killed in self-defense had the right to use lethal force. The bill would give worshipers strong protection from arrest and prosecution. Religious organizations would also be protected from lawsuits” [State Impact]. 

Capitol Event Shows ‘People with Disabilities Can Succeed’: Parker Simpson is a freshman in high school. He makes straight A’s and is the starting quarterback of his football team. He’s on the academic team and hopes, one day, to be an electrical engineer. Simpson also has major hearing loss in both of his ears and is one of the many students who attend the Oklahoma School for the Deaf in Sulphur. At the Capitol last week, Simpson and other students from OSD gathered to raise awareness for individuals with disabilities for People with Disabilities Awareness Day in hopes of spreading a simple message: disabilities aren’t definitive [NonDoc]. 

  Quote of the Day

“I remember, in 1990, when educators, students and community leaders circled the Capitol in a pouring rain and stood their ground. It is time to do it again.”

-Penny Williams, former legislator and a co-author of Oklahoma’s landmark 1990 education reform, House Bill 1017 [Source].

Number of the Day


How much Oklahoma teachers’ average take home pay has shrunk since FY 2006, adjusted for inflation.

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Lack of Wage Transparency Is a Real Factor in Suppressing American Wages: If history has taught us anything, it is that businesses will not pay people what they are worth until they are forced to. That’s why some employers retaliate against workers for even discussing wages with each other. So while everyone keeps asking “why aren’t wages growing?,” keep in mind that there is a very simple fix which could improve workers’ bargaining position. Enforcing greater wage transparency is not a silver bullet. It’s not going to completely erase all wage stagnation. But it is a powerful remedy to a labor market that favors the employer [Civic Skunk Works].

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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.

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