Oklahoma teacher walkout ends

After nine days, the Oklahoma teacher walkout is ending, the state's largest teachers union said on Thursday. But tea...

Posted: Apr 13, 2018 12:42 PM
Updated: Apr 13, 2018 12:42 PM

After nine days, the Oklahoma teacher walkout is ending, the state's largest teachers union said on Thursday. But teachers across the state pledged to continue fighting for more school funding and higher pay.

"We have created a movement and there's no stopping us now," Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest said Thursday. "This fight is not over just because the school bell rings once more and our members walk back into schools."

The OEA decided to end the walkout with $479 million in funding for the next school year -- less than what they'd hoped to achieve, Priest said in a news conference. After days of negotiations with lawmakers in both the Oklahoma House and Senate, it became clear that "Senate Republicans won't budge an inch on any more revenue for public education," she said.

"We need to face reality," Priest told reporters. "Despite tens of thousands of people filling the Capitol and spilling out onto the grounds of this Capitol for nine days, we have seen no significant legislative movement since last Friday."

'Time to go back to school'

Priest said Oklahoma teachers had secured a victory even though the most significant gains were achieved before the beginning of the walkout. Before teachers walked out on April 2, Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill giving teachers a $6,100 raise. The OEA had called passage of the bill a "truly historic moment," but said it didn't go far enough. It wanted that figure to be $10,000. Fallin also signed a bill that raised education funding over the next fiscal year by $50 million. The teachers' union also wanted that number to be higher.

Fallin, who compared the striking teachers to "a teenage kid that wants a better car," said she was glad teachers were returning to school.

"They've been out for two weeks, and it's time for them to get back to school," Fallin said in a statement. "Student learning at schools affected by the strike has been halted for nearly two weeks at a critical time in the academic year when federal and state testing requirements need to be completed."

'A cop-out'

The Oklahoma educators' walkout came on the heels of another walkout in West Virginia, where Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill giving teachers a 5% pay raise after nine days. In Kentucky, teachers are preparing to rally Friday at the state Capitol in Frankfort, and in Arizona, educators are weighing a walkout of their own.

The decision to end the Oklahoma walkout was met with mixed reaction from teachers, some of whom said OEA ended the walkout prematurely.

"The OEA doesn't get to decide when I'm finished," said middle school choir teacher Renee Jerden, who said she was inspired by the walkout to run for Senate. "I feel like it's a cop-out -- we have let them win by showing them they can behave however they want and we'll eventually get tired and go home."

Oklahoma teachers said additional spending was needed to improve deteriorating school facilities and outdated school supplies. Many said they paid for classroom supplies with their own money while working multiple jobs to make ends meet.

The OEA had been polling its members throughout the walkout, Priest said. By Thursday, 70% of respondents indicated they were unsure of continuing the walkout, she said.

But some teachers said they were not polled before the final decision to end the walkout.

"I'm disappointed in the pullout of support from our teacher-led movement to secure more funding for our schools before a consensus was reached through a majority of polling efforts," said Jessica Lightle, a teacher at Puterbaugh Middle School in McAlester, Oklahoma. "I am, however, energized and motivated by the community of teachers, parents and students who have vowed to keep fighting for a better education for our children. This is a long road to recovery and Oklahomans have actively engaged to heal our system. I look forward to the future."

Her husband, McAlester High School English teacher Jason Lightle, said complacency had allowed the state education system to deteriorate, and gains were modest compared to the need. But he hopes the energy of the walkout will change that.

"My hope is that this walkout results in citizens becoming more engaged with their representatives at all levels so that the state of Oklahoma will become citizen-led, just as this walkout was teacher-led, and improvements can be made across the board. Complacency simply cannot be allowed any longer."

Teachers pledge to run for office

Efforts to obtain more funding will continue away from the Capitol, Priest said. The OEA will be supporting its members and candidates who are running for office during the midterm elections against those who opposed funding Oklahoma's schools.

The number of teachers vowing to run for office was one sign of the walkout's success, said Kelly Craig, a fifth grade teacher in Oklahoma City. "While it's disheartening that the walk-out ended, the walk-out forced change that Oklahomans will see this November," she said. "Without the walk-out, this wouldn't have occurred!"

Fourth grade math and science teacher Carri Hicks brought her students to protests at the Capitol. She called the decision to end the walkout "bittersweet." But she said the experience galvanized her and others to run for office.

"Advocacy levels are at an all time high, and we have to make sure that momentum continues well into the next decade."

Yukon High School teacher Jonathan Moy blamed legislators for their unwillingness to budge. But he said he's ready to go back to school.

"I told my students before this began that Oklahoma legislators have shown that education isn't a priority. Now the nation has proof of this," he said. "It's disappointing, but I think we've accomplished as much as we can. The kids are the priority."

West Lafayette
Partly Cloudy
95° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 104°
Kokomo
Partly Cloudy
90° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 95°
Rensselaer
Partly Cloudy
79° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 81°
Fowler
Partly Cloudy
95° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 104°
Williamsport
Partly Cloudy
84° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 91°
Crawfordsville
Partly Cloudy
91° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 93°
Frankfort
Partly Cloudy
91° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 93°
Delphi
Partly Cloudy
87° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 91°
Monticello
Partly Cloudy
87° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 91°
Logansport
Partly Cloudy
90° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 91°
Record heat expected over the weekend.
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 748654

Reported Deaths: 13714
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1029801769
Lake553301003
Allen41600690
St. Joseph36919564
Hamilton36487416
Elkhart29332457
Tippecanoe22833225
Vanderburgh22535398
Porter19307324
Johnson18377385
Hendricks17578317
Clark13176193
Madison13105343
Vigo12594253
LaPorte12384220
Monroe12147174
Delaware10941196
Howard10244225
Kosciusko9606119
Hancock8538144
Bartholomew8154157
Warrick7851156
Floyd7759179
Grant7224178
Wayne7153201
Boone6909103
Morgan6732141
Dubois6209118
Marshall6206116
Cass5989108
Henry5891108
Dearborn588778
Noble579486
Jackson508074
Shelby500297
Lawrence4724121
Gibson443793
Harrison440173
Clinton439255
DeKalb438485
Montgomery433390
Whitley405642
Huntington402181
Steuben398159
Miami391968
Jasper385953
Knox375590
Putnam371760
Wabash360482
Ripley346370
Adams344855
Jefferson335384
White328753
Daviess302499
Wells294881
Decatur289792
Greene286085
Fayette284464
Posey273535
LaGrange272672
Scott269455
Clay265147
Randolph244683
Washington244334
Jennings235049
Spencer233931
Starke227457
Fountain217547
Sullivan213943
Owen210758
Fulton200742
Jay200732
Carroll193420
Orange188055
Perry186637
Rush175526
Vermillion173144
Franklin170135
Tipton165546
Parke148716
Pike137934
Blackford136032
Pulaski119947
Newton112536
Brown103943
Crawford102316
Benton100814
Martin91215
Warren83515
Switzerland8068
Union72810
Ohio57811
Unassigned0419

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events