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Teacher pressure forces Oklahoma Education Association to move walkout up to April 2

Teacher pressure forces Oklahoma Education Association to move walkout up to April 2
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The Oklahoma Education Association changed its proposed date for a statewide walkout from April 23 to April 2 in response to pushback within its own membership and non-member teachers.

Alicia Priest, president of OEA, told the Tulsa World of the date change Wednesday afternoon.

She said the union is calling for the Oklahoma Legislature to fund a significant pay increase for teachers, support personnel and increase overall common education funding by April 1 and if that deadline isn’t met, OEA calls for a statewide walkout to begin April 2.

Teachers would converge on the Capitol beginning on April 2, Priest said.

“Teachers have demanded that the date be changed, and OEA listened,” said Brendan Jarvis, an OEA board member representing Union and Sand Springs and Union Public Schools teacher.

“I am very excited that teachers are standing up,” said Jarvis. “This is great.”

Other OEA factions such as Zone C, which includes teachers in Adair, Cherokee and Muskogee counties passed a motion Tuesday evening to give the Oklahoma Legislature until April 2 and then take a “work action” to shut down their schools April 3.

The teachers union is asking for a $10,000 teacher pay increase over three year, a $5,000 increase for support personnel and increased common education funding.

Priest acknowledged that the decision came after teacher feedback.

“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,” said Priest.

The Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association gave the thumbs up to the new walkout date.

“All I need now is a majority of my members giving a thumbs up and for TPS to close school,” said Patti Ferguson-Palmer, TCTA president.

 The union, which represents about 2,000 Tulsa Public Schools teachers, has been surveying its members for the past week, and the full results are due back Thursday.

Ferguson-Palmer said the vast majority of survey results that she has reviewed so far show widespread support of a walkout with more than 150 in favor and only eight members in opposition.

TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist said the district will continue to follow the lead of OEA and stand with its teachers.

A walkout could have a significant impact on the lives of students. It could impact state or college board testing  and child nutrition.

“We are working with community groups and other folks to make sure that students have a safe place to go, that they have meals available to them, that those students who are in line to take the (Advanced Placement) test have tutors in their communities to help them with that preparation,” said Priest.

OEA plans roll out what revenue could be raised, and how it could be raised as well as other strategies at a news conference Thursday.

Other ideas continued to swirl about a statewide teacher walkout Wednesday. One group, Oklahoma Teachers United, had two planned votes set for Wednesday evening, one in Moore and another at a Tulsa church.

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