Thousands of teachers walkout of class to rally for more funding at Oklahoma Capitol
OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) —
Thousands of Oklahoma teachers have walked out of class to rally for more education funding.
Teachers from districts all across Oklahoma flooding into Capitol as they rally for increased funding and pay raises for teachers and state employees. The Oklahoma Education Association continued their call for a walkout after Governor Mary Fallin sign a bill authorizing a 15 to 18 percent pay raise. Before Fallin signed the bill, lawmakers voted to pull approximately $47 million in funding from a hotel/motel tax from the package. OEA is asking teachers to continue the walkout until the legislature replaces the hole in the funding pulled from the hotel/motel tax and to pass "ball and dice" legislation that is currently in the Senate. They would like legislators to restore $200 million to public school funding, which has been cut from the budget since 2008.
OEA President Alicia Priest says that teachers will be rallying until lawmakers meet their demands.
"We'll be here until the legislature gives our students the deal they need to have success today and in the future," Priest said.
The organization has asked lawmakers to give support staff a $5,000 raise. Lawmakers have only delivered half of that demand.
"We're advocating unapologetically for our students and what they need to have success in the future." Priest said. "They (the legislature) could end this today if they fund our schools."
Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister told FOX 25 said that the rally is the result of a erosion of public education funding.
"Teachers are here today to share the story of the children in their classrooms, of the oversized, large and growing classrooms," Hofmeister said.
Union leaders, teachers and students all spoke at the rally on Monday.
Ed Allen, president of the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers, said it was time for significant funding behind the bills.
"We want a school that everyone deserves." Allen said. "It's hard when a teacher tells me her textbooks are older than she is."
Moore High School sophomore Hope Davis called for change while also interpreting her speech in American Sign Language.
"You cannot shortchange the future of our students," Davis said. "Oklahoma legislators, I beg you to fully fund my education. To fully fund our education. We are the future, but we need your help. Don't stop at 1010xx."
The rally also featured West Virginia Education Association Dale Lee. The state recently had their own rally for education funding and pay raises.
"We've been given the belief that if we stand united we can make a difference...It takes everyone united to make this happen," Lee said.
Priest wrapped up the speeches at the rally demanding continued action.
"Make this movement about more than we can accomplish today. We must keep that movement going." Priest said. "Let's continue fighting for our students together. Engaged activisim is what it's going to take."