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Oklahoma Teacher Walkout Stretches Into Day Four

Oklahoma teachers continued to rally Wednesday at the state capitol, the third day of a planned teacher walkout. Educators filled the capitol to capacity, urging lawmakers to hear their demands for more education funding.

The Oklahoma Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, wants more money for the classroom and it identified legislation they think would achieve that. One is a bill allowing ball and dice games in casinos, another would repeal some capital gains exemptions.

Jamie Christian teaches 8th grade science at Millwood Arts Academy in Oklahoma City. She spent the day urging lawmakers to back the measures.

"Something we’ve been really looking for is the capital gains, which we’ve been told is just not going to happen. Point blank it’s not going to happen. What we would like to see is more negotiations and compromises to happen between the parties so that they can pass any bills now."

Later in the day, a compromise between parties did take place. The House of Representatives took up a bill that would place a sales tax on Amazon marketplace vendors. House Bill 1019XX would raise approximately $20.5 million.

A bipartisan amendment to that bill, filed by unlikely bedfellows in Democratic Rep. Scott Inman and Republican Rep. John Bennett, directs that $20.5 million of new revenue annually into the funding formula for common education. The bill passed the House floor by a vote of 92 to 7 and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

But, that compromise may represent the final peace offering to teachers rallying at the state capitol. Representative Kevin Wallace, the appropriations chairman, told lawmakers that this is it, HB1019XX was the last new revenue bill they will get to vote on.

"I do not believe you will see another revenue measure on this floor."

Wallace said compromises made to get last week’s revenue package for teacher pay raises passed eliminated the possibility of reinstating the capital gains tax.

After the vote, Republican Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols claimed he had just been notified by the state Senate that they would hear House Bill 1013XX on Thursday. This is the so-called ball and dice games bill that would allow more table games in casinos. It is expected to generate an additional $20 million in revenue.

Whether the bill will be heard, or passed, by the Senate today has yet to be seen.

Amy Radtke, who teaches science at Norman North High School, wasn’t encouraged by discussions with her legislators.

“We’ve been told that, at least from some of them, they don’t really approve of ball and dice from a religious perspective and that capital gains is a no-go.”

The possible combination of the third party Internet retailer bill and the ball and dice bill would generate a total of $40.5 million. This is the same amount lost by the repeal of the hotel and motel tax last week.

It is unclear if that is enough for teachers to call off the walkout.

For now, dozens of school districts have canceled classes for today, and several have closed schools for Friday as well.

Jacob McCleland / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange /
Jacob McCleland / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange /
Jacob McCleland / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange /
Jacob McCleland / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange /

Copyright 2018 KOSU

In graduate school at the University of Montana, Emily Wendler focused on Environmental Science and Natural Resource reporting with an emphasis on agriculture. About halfway through her Master’s program a professor introduced her to radio and she fell in love. She has since reported for KBGA, the University of Montana’s college radio station and Montana’s PBS Newsbrief. She was a finalist in a national in-depth radio reporting competition for an investigatory piece she produced on campus rape. She also produced in-depth reports on wind energy and local food for Montana Public Radio. She is very excited to be working in Oklahoma City, and you can hear her work on all things from education to agriculture right here on KOSU.
Rachel Hubbard is a 20-year news veteran and serves as KOSU's executive director.
Ryan LaCroix joined KOSU’s staff in 2013. He hosts All Things Considered, Oklahoma Rock Show, Oklahoma Rock Show: Rewind, and Oklahoma Music Minute.
Jacob McCleland spent nine years as a reporter and host at public radio station KRCU in Cape Girardeau, Mo. His stories have appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, Here & Now, Harvest Public Media and PRI’s The World. Jacob has reported on floods, disappearing languages, crop duster pilots, anvil shooters, Manuel Noriega, mule jumps and more.
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