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Morning Bell: Union unsure of strike past Monday

Good Wednesday morning. 

Next Monday, April 2, is the day the Oklahoma Education Association has set for a statewide walkout over teacher pay and education funding. 

The Office of Management and Enterprise Services is preparing for the largest demonstration the Capitol has seen in decades, which would include a crowd in the tens of thousands. 

No matter what happens this week in the state Legislature, Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said teachers would walk out of schools and be at the state Capitol on April 2.

However, Priest wasn't sure what would happen on April 3, especially if a teacher pay raise bill approved by the House makes it to the governor's desk.

“What I'm saying is April 2 there will be teachers here, they may be saying 'thank you,' they may be pushing for additional funding,” Priest said Tuesday afternoon. “I'm not going to speak for every teacher. I speak for the Oklahoma Education Association.

The possible change in tone about a longterm strike comes after the House approved a series of tax increases to fund a teacher pay raise. However, the pay raise is less than what the OEA had demanded and the teachers union was unclear if it would be enough to satisfy its members. 

Some lawmakers have expressed surprise that the OEA has not come out in favor of the House’s bipartisan agreement, reports NonDoc.

“If you’re only against it because you wanted $10,000 and you’re not going to be happy with an aggregate of $6,100 — some of these people will get up to $8,300 — I need better than that,” said Rep. Cory Williams (D-Stillwater) who voted with all 27 other House Democrats in favor of Monday night’s agreement. “At the end of the day, I believe the management at OEA is abysmal.”

The Oklahoma Senate could vote as early as Wednesday on the $474 million tax package and pay raises for teachers, school support staff and state employees.

It's not guaranteed to pass, though, and it could be amended.

Senate Floor Leader Greg Treat said he would take the first closed-door count among Senate Republicans on Tuesday, but noted that some might still be undecided. The Oklahoman's Dale Denwalt has more on the bill before the Senate.

Summer school might be canceled

Oklahoma City Public Schools may cancel summer school in the event of a protracted teacher walkout, opting instead to purchase reading and other learning materials to send home with students, officials said.

It is one of the options being considered by district leadership if a walkout, which is set to begin Monday, results in extra days being added on to the end of the existing calendar, acting Superintendent Rebecca Kaye told school board members Monday night, reports The Oklahoman's Tim Willert.

Chickasha pausing self-paced learning program

The Chickasha Board of Education announced the district's Self-Paced Learning Program (SPLC) will be put on “academic stand-down” for the 2018-2019 school year, reports the Woodward News

Chickasha Public Schools is under investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation concerning the SPLC program and allegations of grade tampering. 

The Chickasha Board of Education met behind closed doors in executive session to discuss the pending investigation. Upon returning, Board President, Doug Brown, said that students currently enrolled in the SPLC program would be allowed to finish the spring semester. However, he said the program will be put on hold the following school year. 

Claremore bomb threat arrest

A Claremore woman has been arrested in connection with the bomb threat that was phoned in to Claremore Public Schools earlier Tuesday, the Claremore Police Department announced on its Facebook page late Tuesday.

Stephanie Louise Montgomery, 48, "has confessed to calling in the bomb threat" and was arrested on a felony complaint of making a terroristic threat, the Police Department announced. More from the Tulsa World.

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 ›