With the threat of a statewide teachers strike looming, the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) wants $10,000 teacher pay raises over three years, but says it is up to the Legislature to come up with revenue sources.
The Tulsa World reports that teachers union has set April 2 as a walkout date if lawmakers have not acted.
The union says its proposed teacher pay raise, pay increases for support personnel and increased common education funding would cost $812 million in fiscal year 2019.
The proposal calls for a $6,000 increase in year one and an additional $2,000 in years two and three.
"We cannot — no, we will not allow our students to go without any longer," OEA president Alicia Priest says. "If the Legislature doesn't pass $6,000 teacher pay raises and necessary revenue to pay for them, on April 2, OEA is calling on every Oklahoma teacher to leave their classroom and come to Capitol."
Schools will stay closed "until we get what we are asking for," Priest says. “Our members have been loud and clear about their anger and frustration to the Legislature’s inaction and their need to act collectively earlier, and we are calling on the Legislature to abide by their statutory requirement for an education budget by April 1."
Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz says a $10,000 pay raise right now “is very unrealistic.”
It would cost about $600 million in additional revenue, Schulz says. “I think $5,000 is attainable over the course of the next year,” he says.
CNN reports that Oklahoma is ranked 49th in the nation in teacher salaries, according to a 2016 study by the National Education Association. The average elementary school teacher makes $41,150, middle school teachers earn $42,380 and high school teachers make $42,460, according to a 2016 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The OEA says teachers have not received a raise since 2008. The state's education budget has been cut by about 28 percent over the last 10 years.
The salary increases sought by Oklahoma teachers come on the heels of a statewide teachers strike in West Virginia seeking better pay and benefits. After nine days of canceled classes, the West Virginia legislature approved a 5 percent pay hike for teachers earlier this week.
VIDEO—Oklahoma Education Association news conference: