Coburn rips Oklahoma House leaders for passing tax hike

Oklahoma students walkout in support of teachers
Oklahoma teachers plan to walk out of schools next week

31 March, 2018

Reps. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid; Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher; John Pfeiffer, R-Orlando; and Carl Newton, R-Cherokee, voted in favor. The Oklahoma Education Association had demanded a $10,000 increase over three years The legislation passed this week only funds raises of about $6,000.

If the measure passes the senate and is signed into law, this would mark the state's first tax hike since 1990. Consumers will pay $1 more per pack of cigarettes along with a new $5 per night hotel and motel occupancy tax. But it also pursued tax cuts during the economic recovery that followed, dropping income taxes and reducing the gross production tax on oil and gas companies. "If not, classes will resume Thursday, April 5", said Aaron McColloch, the district's spokesman. Fallin said she "absolutely" plans to sign the bill, which the state House passed Monday.

"This is a very historic moment", she said.

Over the past few months, 14 House members voted against every tax package that would have funded a teacher pay raise. "We've had a 28% cut, and that's just not enough", said Guymon High School Teacher Jackie Yell. Especially now that Arizona is also joining the fight, with teachers demanding a 20 percent teacher pay hike.

According to CNBC, Oklahoma's teachers annual salary is $42,460, the lowest in the nation. Teacher compensation is now the lowest in the region and among the lowest in the country, according to education groups.

Based on the available data from the National Education Association, Oklahoma ranked 49th in the country in average teacher pay in 2016, with a little more than $45,200 a year. The regional average was $48,450.

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Flanked by educators and GOP leaders, Fallin on Thursday signed a bill to give public school teachers raises of between 15 and 18 percent, an average boost of about $6,100 a year.

Krista Neal, SPS school nutrition director said school-aged children from any district or school can go to any of the district's six designated sites for free meals for as long as the walkout lasts.

Oklahoma teachers are fighting for more than raises for teachers. If teachers do come, Hofmeister hopes it will be to rally in support of public education and to say "thank you" to the lawmakers who voted for the raises and for education.

"They need to fund our schools better, and until that happens, we're going to walk out", said Adrien Gates, an elementary school teacher in Norman, Okla. "Lawmakers have left funding on the table that could be used immediately to help Oklahoma students", she wrote.

Cobb reported Friday that 93 percent of about 1,000 teachers and other workers he polled said they wanted to walk out on Monday and 83 percent "thought we should stay out of school beyond Monday". 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. Teachers who retired were not replaced due to lack of funding, so current teachers have had to bring those students into their classrooms. Proud of our staff and thankful for our supportive administration and school board.

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