Oklahoma Approves Tax Hike To Avert Teachers' Strike

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"We finally got the job done, "Gov. Mary Fallin (R) said after the Senate approved the bill, 36-10 - barely meeting the state's constitutional requirement of three-fourths majorities for tax increases".

The House already passed the plan to increase taxes on cigarettes, fuel, lodging, and oil and gas production.

If approved by both the state Senate and governor, the bill would raise almost $450 million to increase teachers' salaries.

The mobilization by teachers in Oklahoma follows a multi-day strike in West Virginia earlier this month during which educators and school employees also occupied the state capitol to demand raises and a permanent funding solution for their health insurance program. This, and the general lack of funding for education, has inspired Oklahoma teachers to band together and fight for higher wages and more funding for their schools.

The OEA had also called for $10,000 pay raises for teachers over the next three years and $5,000 pay raises for full-time support professionals such as custodians, secretaries, bus drivers and food service workers.

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A $474 million tax package to fund Oklahoma education is now on the governor's desk.

The Oklahoma Education Association's president said in a statement that while the bill "is major progress, this investment alone will not undo a decade of neglect".

Since 2008, the Oklahoma has cut funding by more than $1,050 per student and leads the nation in reductions to education spending, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The teachers looked at it and said, thanks but we'll be striking anyway.

Poteau schools will be closed Monday (April 2) in support of the teacher walkout.

"This package does not overcome the shortfall that has caused four-day weeks, overcrowded classrooms that deprive kids of the one-on-one attention they need", Priest said in the Facebook video.

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Bill Guy, organizing and communications specialist with the OEA, said that the package of bills passed was "a first step toward funding our goals, but they don't go far enough".

Guy said, "We believe the pressure of the impending statewide walk out is forcing the legislature to take our issues seriously, but they are not fully there yet. We have among the highest class sizes and school counselor loads in the nation, making it hard to meet the individual needs of our students", the group stated.

"The bill was a giant step in the right direction and for that, we are thankful".

Chuck McCauley, Superintendent of Bartlesville Public Schools, speaks during a media conference at the Oklahoma Education Association, Thursday, March 8, 2018, in Oklahoma City.

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