Oklahoma Teachers Prepare For Possible Shutdown At Schools

LEFLORE COUNTY (KFSM)- Teachers in LeFlore County met on Tuesday (March 13) night to learn more about a potential walkout as educators are asking for more pay and proper funding from Oklahoma lawmakers.

Many of those teachers have already gotten the blessing to do so from administrators.

Hundreds of teachers got out of their seats at the meeting for a standing ovation for a Heavener teacher who spoke about her needs as an educator.

Those with the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) now have a more defined plan for what teachers are asking of lawmakers and what will happen if those demands are not met.

"We are asking for a $10,000 raise over three years starting next year with $6,000 and $2,000 the next year and $2,000 the year after that," Alicia Priest, educator and president of OEA said. "We`re asking for $3,000 a year raise for our support professionals."

Those support professionals include cafeteria workers, bus drivers and other staff.

After the meeting, teachers said they feel more prepared going into the potential walkout.

"At least we finally have some sort of a context for what is going on," Amber Brand, teacher at Moore Public Schools said.

Another thing educators are demanding is more funding. They're asking for $200 million in funding for the operational budgets of schools.

Teachers said without proper funding, they're having to use super glue and duct tape to keep textbooks together. They're also using their own money to purchase school supplies and curriculum, but that's not all.

"I have a student who came and told me Mrs. Brand, we`re eating our Halloween candy out of the back of the cabinet and I don`t have any food," Brand said. "I bought groceries for that student and I`m not the only one. Students who can`t take showers because they say their drinking water is coming from the swimming pool down the road. We`ve taken care of these students."

The OEA is encouraging teachers, school personnel and the public to put pressure on state lawmakers. Many said they'll do whatever it takes.

"We are fiftieth in the nation for teacher pay per expenditure, down in the bottom," Priest said. "We haven`t had raises for our education employees since 2007-2008. We have been cut in education funding in that same time period. The Oklahoma Legislature has every opportunity to solve this problem before teachers and administrators and support professionals close down schools on April 2."

People with other state agencies including law enforcement and the Oklahoma Public Employees Association said they'll stand alongside the teachers in this fight.

The educators said they are giving legislators until Easter (April 1) to meet their demands. If that doesn't happen, the teachers in LeFlore County and around the state plan to walk out.

The OEA said it is working with local organizations to make sure students who depend on school meals are fed and have a safe place to go if schools are shut down.

Oklahoma lawyers were also there tonight to address legal concerns about how districts would make up missed days and if teachers would be paid for the time missed.

There is also standardized testing scheduled for the day of the potential walkout. Administrators say those testing dates can be rescheduled if needed.

For more about what educators are planning and more information about the potential walkout and shutdown, click here.