Oklahoma teacher strike at a crossroad
The Oklahoma teachers union called an end to the strike today.
Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest said Thursday it is time for teachers to shift their focus to electing pro-education candidates to the Legislature.
The Washington Examiner declared Oklahoma teacher strike ends.
Oklahoma's teachers are going back to school.
The Oklahoma Education Association called on its members to return to class, saying their strike was over. Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest told reporters Thursday afternoon that "we need to face reality" and that the teachers weren't going to get any more concessions from the state government.
"We have seen no significant legislative movement since last Friday," Priest said in a press conference Thursday afternoon.
When the union says it's over, it's over, right?
No. Absolutely no.
No for a very simple reason:
The union never called for, or led this strike.
In fact, the union could never legally call for the strike anyway.
So does Priest's call, which sounds exactly like what an establishment union would say, make a difference? Only if the teachers care.
Should the teachers wait to elect more Democrats? When has any union, anywhere, ever done that successfully? It's so stupid that one might assume that the union is stabbing them in the back.
School boards at a few other large districts that allowed teachers to walk out, including Moore and Bartlesville, have ordered schools to reopen. Will the teachers obey? It would be weird for workers to let supervisors determine when to strike.
Beyond that, the teachers have a problem that I'm sure does not take them by surprise, political intransigence.
A strike by Oklahoma educators demanding more school funding extended to a 10th day on Wednesday, as the state’s Republican leaders warned they planned no further increases after approving $450 million in new revenue to boost teacher pay.
...“As far as this year, we’ve accomplished a whole lot, and I just don’t know how much more we can get done this session,” state Representative John Pfeiffer, a House floor leader and top Republican lawmaker, told reporters on Tuesday.
A non-partisan poll released on Friday showed 72 percent of voters in Oklahoma, where teachers’ pay has languished near the bottom among U.S. states, supported the walkout.
At some point the public may turn on the strikers, but that hasn't happened yet.
At some point the teachers will be forced to go back to work because they'll need money, but that hasn't happened yet.
So will the teachers listen to those that say "play it safe"? They haven't so far.
Whereas protest signs on Monday focused on general calls to fund education, by Wednesday demands to tax the oil and gas corporations — and to fund schools instead of prisons — were particularly prevalent. As has so often been the case in these teachers’ revolts, the ranks surged past the labor officials. Whereas Oklahoma’s union leaders remain frustratingly wary of forceful calls to make the rich pay for the crisis, Southmoore High School student Ravi Patel displayed no such hesitations at Wednesday morning’s large student rally:
Don’t let them tell you that funds don’t exist. They’re sitting right on them. Those sitting on Capitol Hill shouldn’t be building themselves a hill of capital. We need to stop putting profits above pupils. . . . From this day onwards, legislators will fear us hashtag-wielding teenagers more than they fear the oil and gas companies.
Not only have the rallies continued to grow in size, there are signs of the labor militancy spreading.
Construction workers at the capitol in Oklahoma have refused to cross the picket line, halting the building’s $200 million retrofit. Pastors organized an evening vigil to pray for the victory of the strikers. And Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy, one of the most beloved figures in the state, took a clear stand in support of the strike: “I’m 100 percent behind our educators . . . and I think they should do whatever they think is necessary in order to get what’s necessary to be successful.”
As important as religion and sports are in Oklahoma, the active support of students has been even more pivotal. Unlike in West Virginia, Oklahoman students have mobilized and self-organized from day one, making it difficult for the media and Republicans to pit parents and the public against the teachers.
...Different sectors of school employees have also extended their support to one another. Large numbers of teachers in Oklahoma City have volunteered to let educators arriving from across the state stay in their homes.
Right. So with all of this going on, the teachers union waves the white flag and says we need to focus on electing Democrats. Yeh, right.
Well some teachers decided that it was a good time to go back to work -- as politicians.
Some of the teachers have decided to take matters into their own hands -- and run for office.
Dozens of people showed up at 8 a.m. Wednesday to file paperwork and register their candidacies. These included teachers who either wanted to fight for school funding from inside the Legislature, pursue other reforms for Oklahoma's children or give their students a lesson in democracy.
Meanwhile the move towards a teacher strike in Kentucky and Arizona spreads and gains momentum.
It's even spread to the UK, where teachers and staff at 61 universities have gone on strike.
Nevertheless, you have to wonder just how long the Oklahoma teachers expected to be out. That's the key because the politicians have dug in their heals.
In a major slap in the face to the OEA and all educators, Governor Fallin yesterday signed the repeal of the hotel/motel tax included in HB 1010, thereby cutting roughly $47 million from the original deal. Though she simultaneously signed two bills to raise a similar amount of revenue by taxing casinos and Amazon third-party sellers, the net effect of these measures is that no additional funding for schools has been passed since the walkout began. On Tuesday, the governor also announced that she would refuse to consider supporting the educators’ demands to end Oklahoma’s capital-gains tax break.