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Morning Bell: More schools prepare for possible teachers strike

Good Wednesday morning. At least half of the state's 30 largest school districts have approved a plan to close down schools should teachers walk off the job on April 2. 

School boards have been meeting in recent weeks to approve closure plans if a teacher strike begins next month, following demands made by the Oklahoma Education Association for over $800 million in school funding and teacher pay. 

The Oklahoman has confirmed that school boards for half of the 30 largest districts in the state have approved a closure plan, representing one-third of the student enrollment in Oklahoma. 

Beyond school funding and teacher pay

While Oklahoma teachers are preparing to strike in a few weeks over pay raises and education funding, over half the demands from the state's largest union are not directly related to public schools. 

The Oklahoma Education Association has set an April 2 deadline for the state Legislature to act on nearly $812 million in funding requests. 

While that figure includes a $10,000 pay raise for teachers and $200 million in public school funding, the OEA also is asking for $256 million in additional health care funding and $213 million for state employee pay raises. 

"Education doesn't happen in a bubble," said union President Alicia Priest, referring to the importance of including money for health care and state employee pay. 

You can read more in today's Oklahoman

Where's the money? Oklahoma's Senate leadership attached three tax proposals to existing bills Monday that could raise more than half a billion dollars, but there was no indication that the measures will be heard. The Oklahoman's Dale Denwalt has more

House Speaker Charles McCall is confident that teachers will see a $5,000 pay raise in the next 12 months, if not sooner, he said Tuesday, reports the Tulsa World

Looking for the latest on the pending teachers strike? I look at what we know and what we don't in this short video

Raid land fund for teacher bonuses?

Potential revenue sources for additional teacher pay seemed to be reduced by one Tuesday with the release of an attorney general’s opinion unfavorable to a proposal to tap the Commissioners of the Land Office school trust, reports the Tulsa World

The opinion says House Bill 3440 by Rep. Tom Gann, R-Inola, runs contrary to state and federal law and the Oklahoma Constitution. Gann was in a Republican caucus late Tuesday afternoon and could not be immediately reached for comment.

Bilingual funds stay with students after English proficiency 

Oklahoma school districts receive about $760 dollars for each student who struggles with English, a boost in state funding meant to help many students who have immigrated to the United States, or whose family may have been recent immigrants.

However, once those students become proficient in English and no longer require language support, the school is likely to continue receiving the additional funds. Based on this year's state funding figures, nearly $24 million was funneled to districts for bilingual students who may not be receiving any additional language support.

That does it for today's Morning Bell. Have a great Wednesday. 

Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›