After Demands Are Rebuffed, Oklahoma Teachers Union Issues New Demand

Apr 11, 2018

As Oklahoma's teacher walkout enters its eighth day, the union leading it has a new demand to end it.

Oklahoma Education Association is now saying lawmakers just need to raise another $50 million in revenue for the state budget, and they'll send educators back to school.

Katherine Bishop, OEA Vice President, says it's up to lawmakers to find the money. She doesn't care whether it comes from a wind tax or a repeal of the capital gains exemption, she just wants to see the legislature raise another $50 million to shore up the state budget.

"That’s what we’re needing, is an additional $50 million. It needs to be recurring revenue. It can't be a one-time stipend, or take one from one to pay the other one, it needs to be recurring revenue."

Bishop says it doesn't necessarily have to go to education this year either. She says the more stable sources of recurring revenue the state has, the better education will fare in the long-run.

It's a new stance for the teachers union, who said late last week they would end the walkout if lawmakers voted to repeal some capital gains exemptions and if Governor Mary Fallin vetoed the repeal of the $5 dollar per night hotel/motel tax.

On Tuesday, it was made clear that neither the Governor nor Republican House leadership had any desire to meet those demands.

Republican Representative John Pfeiffer of Orlando said it's not likely the House will take up Senate Bill 1086, a bill repealing the capital gains tax exemption. He said that Republicans agreed to not hear the bill during negotiations for a teacher pay raise bill that was passed two weeks ago.

"We would agree to go gross production tax to 5 percent. In exchange we wouldn’t hear the capital gains tax. The speaker respects the will of the caucus, but as of yet, to my knowledge we don’t have any Republican members coming and asking us to hear the capital gains bill."

Pfeiffer indicated that he does not think the House will consider any additional measures to increase education funding this session.

Meanwhile, Gov. Fallin signed a bill repealing the $5 hotel/motel tax that was originally included in HB1010XX, a revenue package that provided teacher pay raises and some education funding. The tax would have generated nearly $50 million in revenue.

Fallin encouraged legislators to turn their attention to other issues, such as criminal justice and the financial needs of public safety and health and human services.

Dozens of schools remain closed across Oklahoma. Many school districts are now out of snow days and will have to extend the school year by adding days or adding time onto existing school days. But, school officials can't formulate a plan until they know for sure how much time they need to make up and they can't determine that until the walkout ends.