OEA calls for end to teacher walkout, shifting focus to November elections

Oklahoma teachers pack the Capitol rotunda April 11 during the teacher walkout. (KOKH/Steven Anderson)

A teacher walkout is coming to a close in Oklahoma after nine days.

The Oklahoma Education Association has announced that they are shifting their focus from the walkout to the November elections. OEA President Alicia Priest says that the decision to end the walkout came after no significant legislative movement in the past week.

"OEA leadership has been negotiating in good faith with the House and the Senate, but Senate Republicans won't budge an inch on any more revenue for public education." Priest said. "They say they don't believe Oklahoma students need more funding. They're wrong. Lawmakers are simply refusing to cross the finish line."

Prior to the walkout, lawmakers passed a $479 million package that brought pay raises to teachers and restored some education funding. Democrats have tried repeatedly to introduce a bill repealing the capital gains tax exemption but Republicans have refused to hear it. Just before the House adjourned for a three-day weekend Thursday, several lawmakers exchanged words over the bill, drawing applause from the gallery filled with teachers and supporters.

Thursday was the second day of candidate filing in Oklahoma. The State Board of Election reports that 600 candidates have filed to run, which represents the highest total since the organization began keeping records in 2000.

"As classes resume, we must turn our attention towards the election season. Instead of making our case at the steps of the Capitol, we have the opportunity to make our voices heard at the ballot box." Priest said.

Candidate filing ends on Friday. Despite the end of the walkout, the OEA is encouraging districts to continue to send lobby teams to the Capitol every day until the end of the session.

"The state didn't find itself in this school funding crisis overnight. We got here by electing the wrong people to office...The fight is not over just because the school bell rings once more and our members walk back into schools," Priest said.

The Oklahoma Public Employees Association said their members would no longer participate in the walkout Thursday, citing that the focus had shifted solely to education funding and left behind core services.

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