OPWU members joined the Oklahoma Teachers outside the State Capitol in Oklahoma City on April 10. At a tent set up outside the State Capitol building, APWU members distributed 600 bottles of water, 400 granola bars, 60 boxes of pizza and over 2,500 stickers to teachers and their allies.
“The teachers also enjoyed the more than 300 PayDay candy bars we handed out and hoped they will soon see a ‘PayDay’ for themselves, their students, and our education system,” OPWU President Ashley Cargill said. “It was an amazing experience and it was heartwarming to be able to support our teachers, as well as show our solidarity and encourage them through this difficult time,” she added. “We will not give up in this fight and we will continue to be there for them however we can.”
At the end of the nine-day strike, teachers walked away with their heads held high. Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill that increased revenue for education by $450 million, funded by the first major tax hike in the state in nearly 30 years. It also secured a pay raise of $6,100 on average for teachers and $1,250 for school professionals. Education workers plan to continue their fight at the polls, to secure the additional $150 million for education the strikers wanted. A group called Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite is trying to get State Question 799 on the ballot to repeal the tax hike package used to fund the Teacher pay raises.
The group is hoping to get the measure on the November ballot. A tax hike has not been implemented since the passage of State Question 640 in 1992 that requires the super majorities in both chambers. Former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn spoke at a news conference in Oklahoma City with supporter Rhonda Vuilemont-Smith (OTU co-founder) Coburn announced his support of a referendum petition to reverse the school funding bill. Alicia Priest, OEA Pres. says the veto referendum is an attempt to dismantle state services and not to sign the petition.