Morning Bell: Teacher pay attempt fails in Senate
Good Thursday morning. Late last night, the Oklahoma Senate advanced a $4,013 across-the-board teacher pay raise but the bill that would pay for it didn't get enough votes to become law.
According to The Oklahoman's Dale Denwalt: Senate Bill 133 can now move to the House for final approval. Its future is in doubt, however, because the trio of tax hikes that would have raised $450 million for it only got 34 of the 36 votes needed to advance as a revenue-raising measure.
The salary raise would have been a 12.7 percent pay hike for teachers with a bachelor's degree, and less of a percentage increase for teachers who already get paid more to have National Board certification or advanced degrees.
Following the teachers union's demands, which include a $10,000 teacher pay raise, it was to be expected that lawmakers might toss something well short. Last night's push by the Senate was opposed by the Oklahoma Education Association.
All eight Senate Democrats voted against the measure. They were joined by GOP Sens. Joseph Silk, Nathan Dahm, Josh Brecheen and Anthony Sykes.
Lawmaker responses (via NonDoc):
“It does not provide for support staff that we’ve lost over the years. It does not provide for operations. It does not provide for us to have a way to move from four-day school weeks.” - Senate Minority Leader John Sparks, D-Norman
“Whenever we spend our lifetime looking for the perfect, we miss out on the good. We’re not making an empty promise. If you support this bill tonight, there is certainty that teachers will receive a 12.7 percent across-the-board pay raise.” - Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah
Union prez: 'not been good enough'
In a video message post yesterday, Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest said that over 50 school boards have passed resolutions to support teachers during a walkout, which could mean closing schools so that teachers would not lose pay.
Priest also said responses from Gov. Mary Fallin and the House Speaker have "not been good enough."
Schools continue with school closure plans
Oklahoma City Public Schools, in response to a survey of teachers and other certified workers, is planning to close schools for multiple days if teachers walk off the job April 2.
About 63 percent of 771 workers polled by the district said they are prepared to "remain on walkout" for 10 days or longer, according to survey results obtained by The Oklahoman.
The Putnam City School Board resolved to close schools for just one day in the event of a walkout. The board unanimously approved a resolution that supports a salary increase for teachers and declares April 2 as a day of advocacy at the state Capitol for teachers, students and the community.
Students protest gun violence, walk out of school
Hundreds of Oklahoma students walked out of class Wednesday to peacefully protest gun violence for 17 minutes in honor of 17 people killed during a school shooting in Florida last month.
Walkouts were held at Edmond Santa Fe and Norman High School, where about 1,000 students gathered on the football field to pay respects to the shooting victims.
"I felt strongly about walking out for 17 minutes, but a lot of students wanted to have more time to advocate for gun reform in a place where the citizens of Norman could participate," senior Annemarie Cuccia, 18, told The Oklahoman. "A lot of people honked and waved at us as they drove by."
Nationally, organizers hoped the nationwide walkout—which appeared to be orderly and peaceful, despite concerns about the potential for disruption—would be a powerful spark to a broader youth-led movement around stemming gun violence, reports Education Week.
Arming teachers has also been a part of the post-Parkland conversation. In Okemah, around 20 teachers and staff carry firearms. For many parents in this city of about 3,200, guns inside the school are just a natural extension of the larger community, where it's not uncommon for a person to be armed at the corner barbecue joint, the grocery store or the local church.
"It's just a better way to protect the kids," said Bert Robison, a parent of two middle school students and Okemah's city manager.
Tulsa parents of truant students could face fines, jail time
Parents and guardians of school children could be fined up to $500 a day and sent to jail for up to six months if they don’t get their children to school, according to a Tulsa city ordinance change proposed Wednesday, reports Kevin Canfield of the Tulsa World.
But Karen Gilbert, the city councilor sponsoring the measure, insists that this is the last thing the city wants to see happen.
“We do not want to put anybody in jail,” Gilbert said during a Wednesday afternoon council committee meeting. “What this is is giving our police officers a tool to keep our kids safe and to make sure that they are where they are supposed to be during school hours, and that is at school.”
That does it for today's Morning Bell. Have a great Thursday!