Oklahoma is approaching week two of teacher walkouts and demonstrations at the state Capitol as educators, parents and even some students seek more education funding.
Many local districts that were planning a full-scale walkout this week changed their plans once House Bill 1010, which provides some funding for education and teacher pay raises, was signed on March 29. However, some schools stayed committed to closing, and the bill did not stop demonstrations at the Capitol.
Ardmore Educators Association President Amanda Cramer has been to the Capitol with different groups of Ardmore teachers to meet with lawmakers and protesters throughout the week. She said the demonstrations have continued because teachers are demanding the Legislature follow through completely.
“The confusion comes in when the general public doesn’t understand this is not just about raises,” Cramer said. “It never was. This is about funding education as a whole.”
The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed House Bill 1019xx on Wednesday, which would place taxes on items bought online through third-party vendors. The bill was altered so its revenues would go to education funding. Oklahoma Educators Association President Alicia Priest said the bill’s progress was a good sign.
“This is clear evidence of the momentum created by our passionate voices and our tireless advocacy,” Priest said. “This is a win for students and teachers and signals major progress toward funding the schools our students deserve.”
The bill is expected to generate more than $20 million, filling a gap left by the hotel/motel tax that was removed from HB1010xx by followup legislation shortly after the bill’s passage.
There have been no incidents of violence or vandalism from demonstrators, but their anger occasionally shows up in odder, more harmless ways. After Gov. Mary Fallin compared protesting teachers to teenagers demanding a nicer car in a television interview, a crowd of teachers responded by holding up their keys, shaking them in unison and chanting “where’s my car?” when they spotted her in the hallway at the Capitol building on Wednesday.
Cramer said in her opinion, the comment was unprofessional.
“She’s still the governor of the people in that Capitol,” Cramer said. “Whether she likes why they’re there right now or not.”