Coburn rips Oklahoma House for passing tax hike

Teachers in the state began discussing a walkout as West Virginia teachers held a days-long strike earlier this month over low wages.

Oklahoma legislators approved a measure including a $6,100 pay raise for teachers, but the state teacher's union says the bill doesn't go far enough and plans to walk out Monday. That increase moves Oklahoma from seventh to second highest in the region in average teacher pay and is the largest teacher pay raise in the history of the state.

Today marks a historical moment for Oklahoma teachers, students, and families.

"West Virginia woke us up", Arizona Educators Association President Joe Thomas told a cheering crowd at a protest this week in Phoenix.

The Oklahoma Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union that represents almost 40,000 members and school personnel, called the passage of the bill "a truly historic moment", but one that remains "incomplete", according to its president, Alicia Priest. The state ranks 49th in the nation in teacher salaries, according to the National Education Association, in a list that includes Washington, D.C. MS and South Dakota rank lower.

"A lot of teachers are just exhausted of the promises", said Alberto Morejon, a junior high history teacher from Stillwater, Oklahoma, who launched a teacher walkout page on Facebook that quickly reached more than 70,000 followers.

Flanked by educators and GOP leaders, Fallin on Thursday signed a bill to give public school teachers raises of between 15 and 18 percent, an average boost of about $6,100 a year.

"It has been an unmitigated disaster, and it's now coming home to roost on all those folks who blindly cut taxes, not caring how that was going to impact communities", said Garcia.

In the Legislature, where lawmakers needed a three-fourth's majority in both bodies to pass a new tax, the House voted even as billionaire oil baron Harold Hamm, the chairman and CEO of Continental Resources, glared at them from the gallery. The group is considering launching a signature drive to overturn any major tax hikes signed by the governor. "And that work will continue Monday, when educators descend on the capitol", Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said in a Facebook video Wednesday. "This vote is a bright light for public education in Oklahoma".

At one of the city's busiest intersections, 6th and Western, roughly 40 Stillwater public schools teachers and students waved signs as passing motorists tapped their auto and truck horns in seeming approval.

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".

  • Joey Payne