Education

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

After months of gridlock and failed deal-making, the Oklahoma House and Senate have passed a nearly $450 million tax package designed to fund raises for teachers and avoid statewide school closures.

Gov. Mary Fallin said she’ll sign the tax package, which fell short of teachers’ demands. Educators still plan to march at the Capitol April 2 to pressure lawmakers to spend more on schools and public employees and continue a debate that has highlighted growing gaps and frustrations over taxes and government.

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Governor Mary Fallin signed a teacher pay raise into law on Thursday, giving educators their first state-funded salary boost in 10 years. On average, they’ll get about $6,000, but many of them are still walking out of their classrooms on Monday.

 

Mark Webb, a science teacher at Mustang High School, is one of them. He says he appreciates the pay raise but he still wants more money for the classroom.

“We have not funded education properly since 2007,” he said. “And that message has been lost today.”

Kelly Burley / KOSU

On Wednesday afternoon, teachers in Stillwater got an after-school jump on a planned statewide walkout next week.

At one of the city’s busiest intersections, 6th and Western, roughly 40 Stillwater public schools teachers and students waved signs as passing motorists tapped their car and truck horns in seeming approval.

Celeste Fox, a 26-year educator who teaches second grade at nearby Westwood Elementary School, says it’s time to stem the long-rolling tide of education budget cuts in Oklahoma.

Updated 8:58 p.m.

After more than three hours of discussions behind closed doors, the Oklahoma Senate made quick work of three bills that would help fund a teacher pay raise package and potentially avoid next week’s teacher walkout.

Senators passed three bills Wednesday night:

UPDATED: 11:14 p.m.

A revenue package that included several tax increases passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives Monday night, the first time a tax increase has passed the House in 28 years.

It was a late night for the Oklahoma House of Representatives in an effort to avoid a teacher and public employee walkout next week. After several failed attempts over the last 17 months to find funding for a teacher pay raise, Democrats and Republicans struck a deal over the weekend.

Oklahoma Education officials have asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into allegations of fraud and grade-tampering at Chickasha Public Schools.

A probe by the State Department of Education found evidence of more than 5,000 changes to course grades and nearly 19,000 changes to individual assignment grades within an online learning program offered by the high school.

Democrats got their shot at Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday, when she testified before a House committee about her department's proposed budget.

The hearing followed widespread criticism of DeVos for lackluster performances on 60 Minutes and the Today show earlier this month. She remains one of the most unpopular members of President Trump's Cabinet and continues to anger Democrats over many issues.

Chelsea Beck/NPR

The teachers' strike in West Virginia may have ended last week, when Gov. Jim Justice signed a law giving educators a 5 percent pay increase, but the fight in other states is just warming up.

"You can make anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 more by driving 15 minutes across the state line," said Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association. "We're having trouble keeping and attracting young teachers."

"Why have you become, people say, the most hated Cabinet secretary?" Lesley Stahl asked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in a 60 Minutes interview that is drawing lots of attention.

"I'm not so sure how exactly that happened," DeVos responded in the interview, which aired Sunday night on CBS.

Oklahoma Teacher Walk Out Looms

Mar 12, 2018
Dick Thomas Johnson / Flickr

Educators across the state of Oklahoma are threatening to walk out after a decade without a raise. 

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