Over 20 teachers, students, administrators, and parents demonstrated for increased school funding and teacher pay raises outside Lone Grove High School Wednesday night as Oklahoma legislators sent House Bill 1010xx, a $474 million revenue package that would secure teacher and support staff pay raises from the Senate floor to Governor Mary Fallin’s desk.
A day after traveling to Oklahoma City and speaking with Rep. Tommy Hardin, Rep. Pat Ownbey and Sen. Frank Simpson for nearly four hours, Lone Grove High School math teacher Michael Cathey organized the protest and took to the streets.
“We’re just out here trying to get support for education,” Cathey, the president of the Lone Grove Association of Certified Teachers, said. “That’s what it’s all about. Supporting our children’s future.”
Demonstrators held signs and stood along Highway 70 for over an hour, cheering and waving as passersby honked.
Despite the Oklahoma Senate passing House Bill 1010xx Wednesday, a
revenue bill that will secure an average $6,000 pay raise for teachers, Cathey said plans to participate in Monday’s statewide teacher walkout by sending delegations to the capital throughout the week and continued demonstrations outside the school have not changed.
“I think [House Bill 1010xx] is a good first step but it’s still lacking in some areas,” Cathey said after the protest. “It happened so fast. And really it’s unprecedented to see a revenue bill get this far. But it’s not going to put any more teachers in the classroom, it’s not going to give schools funds for upgrading resources or facilities and the pay raise for support staff isn’t proportionate to what the teachers are getting.”
Cathey said seeing the first revenue bill to meet the 75 percent threshold in the House and Senate since State Question 640 passed in 1992 is a result of teachers and students making their voices heard.
“I definitely think that what we’re doing is starting to make a difference,” Cathey said. “This is a direct result of the pressure and threat of a teacher walkout, but there’s a long way to go.”
The Oklahoma Education Administration announced plans for a walkout on April 2 have not change. The OEA made $10,000 teacher pay raises a part of its demands.
Cathey said the group will demonstrate again tonight from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.
“We’re not standing out here for ourselves,” he said. “We’re not here to put money in our pockets. Our message is about supporting our kids. We need funding for our schools and a plan to become competitive long term.”