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Oklahoma Education Association announces deadline for teacher walkout, then deletes post

(KOKH/FILE)

The Oklahoma Education Association set a deadline for lawmakers to fund education needs and pay raises for teachers, but later took down the Facebook post with the announcement.

In the original Facebook post, OEA wrote that its executive director met with more than 200 superintendents Tuesday to come to a consensus on an April 23rd deadline. Dozens of teachers left comments on OEA's post, expressing their frustration that they weren't included in the conversation.

OEA deleted the post, and replaced it with this one: "We hear you. We are putting together more information for you about the strategic reasoning of proposed school closure dates. We all have the same goal: pay raises for education employees and fully funded education. #TogetherWeAreStronger"

It's unclear now if OEA plans to stick to the April 23rd deadline.

Many teachers believe that it's too late to make an impact on lawmakers. They want action now. Deep cuts have left cash-strapped teachers struggling.

"We might not have supplies, we might get what we need," said Jessica Tilley, a teacher with Oklahoma City Public Schools. "I spend a lot of my own money, that I don’t have, on our classroom. Our kids are being affected by it each year."

Oklahoma teachers are some of the lowest paid in the country.

"If I didn’t have financial help from my mother and my stepfather, I couldn’t make it, because they help me," said Sheila Thompson, an OKCPS teacher and a single parent. "They buy my daughter shoes or whatever else she needs."

State lawmakers have failed time and time again to pass legislation for meaningful teacher raises.

"That’s what got us extremely frustrated," Tilley said. "After getting our hopes up, then being disappointed time and time again."

Now teachers are willing to walk out of their classrooms if lawmakers refuse to act.

Most districts across the state have pledged support for teachers on the issue. Superintendents from across the state met Tuesday and discussed each district's plan, as the likelihood of a walkout becomes more apparent.

Every superintendent FOX 25 spoke to agreed that a walkout is inevitable, if some sort of action is not immediately taken by the legislature.

"Teachers are frustrated and angry, and I can't blame them a bit,” said Edmond Schools Superintendent Bret Towne. “They've had this carrot dangled in front of them for three to five years now with 779 failing, with the A-Plus plan failing, with Step Up failing. I mean we have struck out in the state at that point."

Towne says his district is in need of 300 new teachers next year. His biggest fear concerning a walkout is whether it will influence legislators.

"What we're most concerned about is will it be able to influence the state to pass a significant teacher pay raise so that we're not losing teachers to other states, to other business and industries,” Towne said.

Acting OKCPS Superintendent Rebecca Kaye shares that fear.

"Right now, we're losing a quarter of our teachers every year in Oklahoma City Public Schools and what they're telling us is that they're taking jobs in other states or in the private sector where they are easily getting a $10,000 dollar raise, at least,” Kaye said. In some cases, more than that."

Kaye says the walkout is about more than teacher pay; It's about class sizes and resources.

Teachers and superintendents are hopeful the mounting pressure will force lawmakers to push forward a solution in the coming weeks. If not, teachers say they're committed to walk out - and stay out - as long as it takes to create change.


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