Thousands of frustrated teachers in Oklahoma continued their fourth day of strikes on Thursday, declaring the passage of an internet sales tax proposal that would earmark $20 million for education funding as insufficient.
The Oklahoma House passed the measure, HB 1019xx, Wednesday afternoon. The bill would require third-party online retailers, like those using Amazon to sell their goods, to collect sales tax.
While some educators lauded the move as an important first step in securing increased education funding, the Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest said “our elected leaders have more work to do for our students.” According to The Oklahoman, Priest pushed for lawmakers to consider HB 1013xx, legislation that would allow Oklahoma casinos to have ball and dice table games, which, together with the sales tax measure would bring education funding to $42 million.
The Senate is expected to consider both measures on Friday.
— Ben Felder (@benfelder_okc) April 5, 2018
Guess what? The Capitol is packed. Lol 😂Day 4 of #oklaedwalkout #Oklahomateacherswalkout The House session is underway and there are LONG lines in the hallway to get into this gallery and the Senate special session that starts at 10:30. #OKwalk4kids @okea @FOX23 pic.twitter.com/B0C7tsX6kl
— Tiffany Alaniz (@TiffanyAlaniz) April 5, 2018
“WE CANNOT SETTLE FOR 42M!” Oklahoma teacher Alberto Morejon wrote Thursday morning in Oklahoma Teacher Walkout – The Time Is Now!, a Facebook group he created that is involved in planning walkouts.
“Right now the Original bill that was passed gave 50M towards education funding (Our ask was 200M),” he added, referring to a bill signed by Gov. Mary Fallin (R) last week that would increase teacher salaries by an average of $6,100 annually and included $50 million in funding for classrooms.
“If you take 50M plus this new potential funding of 42M (assuming both bills pass) that is 92M … they would still be short changing our kids!!” Morejon wrote.
Following the House passage of the internet sales tax bill Wednesday, state Rep. Scott Inman (D) urged his colleagues to do more.
“Even with this plan, there’s not enough money to fully fund the promise they made you last week,” he said, according to The Oklahoman. “If you think the only reason you’re here is to pass a $20 million Amazon tax and go home, then next year you’ll still have $150 million fewer dollars with no new money to hire a teacher.”
The continuing strikes in Oklahoma are the latest in a series of actions by educators and school administrators throughout the country. Last month, West Virginia teachers reached a deal with lawmakers for a 5 percent pay increase, after nine days of strikes. Teachers in Kentucky and Arizona are also currently protesting for increased education funding.
— Sidney Van Wyk Lee (@SidneyVanWykLee) April 5, 2018
— Mycah Hatfield KJRH (@MycahHatfield) April 5, 2018
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Oklahoma teachers are the lowest paid in the United States. An analysis of public school teachers by the National Education Association found that Oklahoma teachers make an average salary of $45,245, ranking only slightly above Mississippi and South Dakota.
On top of low wages, Oklahoma teachers grapple with poor classroom conditions, crumbling textbooks, and limited seating. In a Facebook post that went viral last week, Laurissa Kovacs, an art teacher from McAlester, Oklahoma, described the abysmal conditions in her classroom, with a photo of a disintegrating chair. Kovacs has since received $44,000 in donated supplies, according to CNN.
In a March 28 Facebook post, Laurissa Kovacs shared this photo of a crumbling chair in her classroom. (Credit: Laurissa Kovacs, Facebook)
Despite this reality, Gov. Fallin on Tuesday likened teachers on strike to a spoiled teenager “who wants a better car.”
“That was kind of a slap in the face,” Donita Goforth, an elementary school teacher from Grove, Oklahoma, told the Associated Press.