Oklahoma teachers have spent the past two days at the state Capitol demanding not only better pay for them but more funding for schools that goes directly into the classroom.
Republican lawmakers in the state have been caught trying to pull a switcheroo on laws they passed to raise pay and taxes. Legislators have also taken to local news and the House and Senate floors to trash teachers and blame funding problems on anyone but themselves.
Over the week, the legislature passed and the governor signed a measure that would increase teacher pay by $6,000 annually. Teachers denounced the measure because while the pay increase might be nice for them, it didn't address the larger concern about adequately funding schools and money in classrooms for children. Immediately after Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK) signed the law in a public ceremony, lawmakers began repealing pieces of it.
Fallin then said that she hoped teachers would come to the Capitol to say "thank you," according to one Journal Record reporter. When they didn't, Fallin told Omar Villafranca at CBS evening news that the educators were "acting like teenage kid that wants a better car." She then tried to claim the teachers were Antifa protesters.
Republican lawmakers then spoke with local news outlets to denounce schools and the teachers.
In an interview with KWTV News 9, state Rep. Bobby Cleveland told teachers to get back to the classroom when the walkout began.
State Rep. Kevin McDugle told KJRH reporter Travis Guillory, "I'm not voting for another stinking measure when they're acting the way they're acting."
“I’m not voting for another stinking measure when they’re acting the way they’re acting.” - Rep. Kevin McDugle. Vid… https://t.co/O2Hxll82TW— Travis Guillory (@Travis Guillory) 1522776737.0
Two different teachers reported hearing state Sen. Wayne Shaw of Grove, Oklahoma trash the schools in his own district. “Its not like Westville is the brass ring of Oklahoma schools," he reportedly said.
Westville resident Vickie Hanvey railed against Shaw's statements saying the only "brass rings" in Westville schools are the teachers, counselors and principals.
One solution state Sen. Marty Quinn of Claremore said had was for teachers to simply take a different job if they don’t like their low pay. It's unclear how he thinks schools would continue without anyone working there. He also told student Ariel Grimes that she was “too young” to understand the school funding crisis. She told KOCO News that she was then told to leave. Quinn later told reporters that he would have used different words but blamed Grimes, saying she took his words out of context. She noted that the local bank in Claremore pays for copy paper because the schools are too poor.
Rep. Dale Derby confessed to Fox23 that he told Owasso teachers in his district that the problem was “that Democrats owned this state for 100 years. Republicans have been in charge for 10 years and we’ve gradually picked it up.”
Today, Rep. Dale Derby told Owasso teachers the problem was “that Democrats owned this state for 100 years. Republicans have been in charge for 10 years and we’ve gradually picked it up.” 🤦🏻♀️ WHAT TEACHER IS BETTER OFF THAN 10 yrs AGO?!!? #OkLegFAIL #OklaEd #OKwalk4kids pic.twitter.com/kF8o0XRGCV— Amanda (@Amanda_Clinton) April 4, 2018
According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, school funding dropped significantly 10 years ago when the GOP took over the state legislature. Fallin was then elected in 2010 and the GOP took over all state-wide offices. Students in the schools have gradually increased.
[caption id="attachment_1248609" align="aligncenter" width="632"] (Chart via the Oklahoma Policy Institute)[/caption]
When that excuse wasn't found to be accurate, Derby then blamed the schools themselves. "Oh, your local school districts squandered the money," he told Fox 23.
Derby the sequel: “Oh, your local school districts squandered the money.” REALLY.— Amanda (@Amanda_Clinton) April 4, 2018
Just millions and millions lost at the District level. 🙄 yeah, right. I also like how he says “YOUR PROBLEMS.” Actually Representative, it’s YOUR problem. 😡#OkLegFAIL #oklaEd #OKwalk4kids pic.twitter.com/OynRqASWxI
He then claimed that they didn't have the money. Indeed, there is "not enough money in all of Oklahoma to fix education," Derby told teachers.
State Rep. Josh Cockcroft, of Tecumseh kept cutting off the microphone of House minority leader Scott Inman when he would speak out in support of the teachers, one educator reported.
In a 2016 poll, 65 percent of Oklahomans said that the state spends too little on students. Indeed, the state ranks 47th out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., according to Census Bureau data. When it comes to teacher pay, Oklahoma ranks 49th in the nation when it comes to teacher pay, making $13,705 less than the national average. Teachers have reserved space in the Capitol through at least April 13.