Morning Bell: TEACHER WALKOUT - DAY 5
Friday marks the fifth day of a statewide teacher strike, surpassing the four-day walkout of 1990, which resulted in a series of new education funding and and school mandates.
Here's what to watch for today:
Senate meets. The state Senate, which will convene at 8:30 a.m. today, is slated to consider three revenue-raising bills, potentially moving the walkout closer to an end and reopening hundreds of schools across the state.
"We think tomorrow will be a very important day," state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said Thursday about today's session of the Senate. "I think there will be new revenue that we will see out of the Senate tomorrow."
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- Video: Oklahoma Teacher Walkout: Day 4 - Revenue measures move to Senate
The Senate will be voting on the so-called “Amazon tax” that passed the House on Wednesday. It will also consider a bill permitting ball and dice gambling, estimated to generate $22 million, along with a bill to increase the hotel and motel tax that was included in last week's massive revenue package, but later removed.
“I think all three of those will pass,” said Senate Minority Leader John Sparks, D-Norman.
Teacher response. If the Senate acts today in approving three new revenue sources, and dedicates its to public education, eyes will turn towards teachers and the Oklahoma Education Association for their response.
Many teachers said they are prepared to remain at the Capitol into next week and the OEA has already secured its permit and put together a plan for a walkout continuing next Monday.
Makeup days. The extension of means more schools will have to develop plans for making up days. For example, Oklahoma City Public Schools students will have to wait an extra day before staring their summer vacation, reports The Oklahoman's Tim Willert.
District officials announced Thursday that schools will be closed Friday for a fifth consecutive day so teachers can participate in the statewide walkout. That means the last day of the year for students will be May 30 instead of May 29.
Yesterday at the Capitol was another day or intense rallies on the inside and a festival-like atmosphere outside. Here's my story from Thursday's rally.
You can watch a video recap of Thursday here.
Outside the Senate chamber, a crowd of teachers chanted "capital gains” in a show of support for eliminating the capital gains tax exemption, which could generate more than $100 million, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission.
In the morning, several ministers representing different Christian denominations as well as other faith traditions such as Islam and Judaism, led prayers and offered words of encouragement to teachers on the fourth-floor rotunda for an event called "Clergy Day of Prayer and Action for Public Education."
"We are united by one central theme and that is that we have children in dire need of our help," said The Rev. Clark Frailey, senior pastor of Coffee Creek Church in Edmond.
As teachers filled each floor of the Capitol and others waited to enter in lines that snaked around the building, thousands more gathered outside in a festival-like atmosphere that included marching bands, homemade signs and 5-foot-tall letters that included the shape of a heart and the word "teachers."
Throughout the day, speakers took the stage in front of the south steps to share stories of classroom challenges and the need for more state funding.
A mix of party and protest music pulsed through giant speakers that flanked the stage.
"We are really trying to keep it upbeat," said Nick Singer, a field director for the ACLU, who was playing the part of DJ at the rally. "The work is really hard inside (the Capitol) and there are a lot of tense moments, so people come out here to decompress and have a good time."
I compiled a playlist of walkout songs from the Capitol, which you can find here.
Continue to follow NewsOK for the latest from the Capitol as the teacher walkout reaches its fifth day.