OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) - Thousands of Oklahoma teachers have walked out of class to rally for more education funding.
Teachers from districts all across Oklahoma flooding into Capitol as they rally for increased funding and pay raises for teachers and state employees. The Oklahoma Education Association continued their call for a walkout after Governor Mary Fallin sign a bill authorizing a 15 to 18 percent pay raise. Before Fallin signed the bill, lawmakers voted to pull approximately $47 million in funding from the package.
OEA President Alicia Priest says that teachers will be rallying until lawmakers meet their demands.
"We'll be here until the legislature gives our students the deal they need to have success today and in the future," Priest said.
The organization has asked lawmakers to give teachers a $10,000 raise and support staff a $5,000 raise. They would like legislators to restore $200 million to public school funding, which has been cut from the budget since 2008. The group would also like to see $213 million for state employee pay raises over three years and $255.9 million in health care funding over the next two years.
Gallery: Send us your photos from the Oklahoma teacher walkout"We're advocating unapologetically for our students and what they need to have success in the future." Priest said. "They (the legislature) could end this today if they fund our schools."
By CAROLINE VANDERGRIFF, KOKH
OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) - Teachers from all over Oklahoma are planning to meet at the Oklahoma State Capitol Monday morning to demonstrate to lawmakers the need for pay raises and increased education funding.
Many teachers say they’re committed to fight not for themselves but for their students and support staff. They don’t believe the legislature’s recent pay raise package did enough to address either issue.
Jessica Lightle, a teacher in McAlester, described the unaddressed infrastructure needs at her school – leaking ceilings, holes in the walls and textbooks that are falling apart. She says there just isn’t any money to fix them.
“We work with every resource we have, but they're exhausted,” said Lightle. “Our community resources are exhausted. We have a low-income community and our students are suffering because of it.”
She drove to Oklahoma City Sunday night with her husband Jason, who is also a teacher in McAlester. They plan on staying for several days.
“The crowd that we have on Monday will likely be smaller on Tuesday, but that’s not because they’re losing heart,” said Jason Lightle. “It’s because people are broke and they have to go back. A lot of the people that I know scraped together from their kids’ piggy banks even to be able to afford to come up to Oklahoma City for Monday because they knew it was important.”
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says the biggest challenge will be managing traffic.
CAPITOL area - The left lane of northbound Lincoln Blvd. will be closed b/t NE 18th St and the State Capitol from 7a to 5p Monday for bus parking.— OKDOT (@OKDOT) April 2, 2018
It's going to be very hard to find a place to park, so teachers are encouraged to carpool or catch the bus. If you're not taking part in the demonstration, it's a good idea to just avoid the area Monday.
“It’s a normal workday for people that work in and around this area, so we're anticipating a lot of congestion that morning, and just trying to make sure people are able to cross the streets on both sides of the Capitol safely,” said Capt. Paul Timmons with OHP. “We want to make it as safe as we possibly can.”
There will be enhanced security measures in place on the grounds and inside the Capitol for the walkout. Each person who wants to go inside the Capitol must go through security. No guns, knives or other weapons are allowed inside the building.
The security lines are expected to be very long. OHP urges people to carry as little as possible to keep things moving and be patient trying to get inside.