Morning Bell: Public support for walkout?
Good Tuesday morning. There's the general public, and then there are voters. The difference is that candidates only care about voters, and voters don't always represent the larger public.
For example, education advocates have continued to say that public opinion is on their side when it comes to the ongoing teacher walkout. The Oklahoma Education Association released a poll last week claiming widespread support, and Ed Allen, president of the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers, said the teacher walkout continues because school districts and families have been supportive.
"I was a little worried that the energy would drop off, maybe school districts would call teachers back, but that hasn't happened," Allen told The Oklahoman, in an interview on Monday. "Support in the community is still strong, school boards are still with us."
But three Republican gubernatorial candidates said they would not have signed the revenue and teacher pay raise package that promises a $6,100 annual increase for the average teacher. Many of the candidates have also been critical of the teacher walkout.
In a candidate forum on KOKC radio aired Monday, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, Tulsa businessman Kevin Stitt and Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson said they would not have signed the package. Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett did not say what he would have done, reports The Oklahoman's Chris Casteel.
Of course, these candidates are focused on winning a Republican primary. But the fact that they are distancing themselves from a package that even Republican lawmakers called historic just a few weeks ago shows where they believe those primary voters are at.
However, it's hard to see the walkout lasting as long as it has, and school boards continuing to back it, without sizable public support.
Walkout enters second week
With crowds noticeably larger than last week, thousands of teachers returned to the Oklahoma state Capitol on Monday.
They were joined by parents, students and other education advocates who helped kick off the second week of a statewide teacher walkout, which has shut down hundreds of schools across the state.
"We've got to keep this on their mind, this can't go away," said Kelly Dunn, a 26-year teacher from Sulphur, who was trying to meet with lawmakers. "We've got to get something accomplished."
Past and present ed secretaries discuss Oklahoma walkout
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said Oklahoma teachers shouldn't let their disputes with the Legislature impact students.
“I think about the kids,” DeVos said about the Oklahoma walkout, according to the Dallas Morning News. “I think we need to stay focused on what’s right for kids. And I hope that adults would keep adult disagreements and disputes in a separate place, and serve the students that are there to be served.”
John B. King, Jr., the former secretary of education under President Barack Obama, said what teachers are doing in Oklahoma is relevant to students. You can read more here.
Testing window extended during walkout
Oklahoma schools have been granted more time to administer state-mandated tests, but another extension isn't likely.
The state Department of Education announced Monday that public schools have until April 27 to administer paper tests, which was one week later than originally set. Tests administered online have until May 4.
The extension of the testing window was made as hundreds of schools remained closed during the second week of a statewide teacher walkout.
"But this is the maximum we have," state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said.
Another teachers caucus?
Dozens of educators ran for office two years ago, under the banner of the "teachers caucus." Will we see another effort? Filing for state office begins Wednesday and there is talk that some of the teachers at the Capitol this week are going to run for a seat in the Legislature. The primaries will be June 26, with primary runoffs set for Aug. 28, if necessary. The general election is Nov. 6.