New bill would penalize teachers who go on strike

    Teachers during last Spring's walkout. (KOKH/File)

    A proposed amendment to a bill in the state house would penalize any teacher who participates in a strike.

    Last Spring, thousands of teachers descended on the state capitol for nine days demanding better funding.

    "When we did this last Spring, it was school boards passing resolutions, communities coming together saying 'yes, we have had a decade of cuts and it's time our voice is heard,'" said Katherine Bishop, the vice president of the Oklahoma Education Association.

    Now, a proposed amendment, from Rep. Todd Russ, would deny pay to any teacher or school employee participating in a strike, and even revoke their certificate from the state board of education.

    "Anything that can be a fear tactic going forward to stifle the people's voice at the people's house is detrimental, and we should take those seriously," Bishop said.

    It's already against the law for teachers to strike.

    In a statement, Rep. Russ compared teachers striking to air traffic controllers who aren't allowed to strike.

    Part of it read “Students deserve to be in their classrooms learning and preparing for their next grade and their next phase of life.”

    Russ said he understands the plight of the teachers and voted for their last raise.

    Instead, he faults the unions, saying they "knew it was illegal under state law to strike, so they called last year's action a walk out.”

    The OEA says they were doing what they had to do for the students.

    "When we look back at those days that school's closed, students made up that time, they made up that learning, but it was that community that came together and stood with us, the kids stood with us, because they knew, unless we stood together, we weren't going to make a difference," Bishop said.

    Another bill introduced in the Oklahoma State Senate proposes charging any groups over 100 people to put down a $50,000 bond to cover security, cleanup and damage if they organize a protest outside the state capitol.

    It's author, Sen. Mark Allen said that's still a work in progress.

    After asking about a month ago, the OEA is still hoping for hundreds of thousands of dollars from a surplus in the state's budget to go towards pay increases.

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