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Local schools adjust walkout plans
Mike Broyles
Saturday, April 21, 2018

Several local schools will stay open during the statewide teacher walkout on April 2, while teachers at other schools will walk.

Among the local schools to stay open are Frink-Chambers Public Schools, Haywood Public Schools, Kiowa Public Schools, Krebs Public Schools, Pittsburg Public Schools, Savanna Public Schools and Stuart Public Schools, according to school officials who said they were pleased with the Oklahoma State Senate passing House Bills that would increase teacher pay and appropriate $2.9 billion to the State Department of Education.

Officials from McAlester Public Schools, Haileyville Public Schools, Hartshorne Public Schools and Quinton Public Schools said they will close school on Monday, April 2, to allow teachers to be able to attend the state Capitol protest along with other school districts in Oklahoma.

Canadian Public Schools is already closed on Mondays. Wilburton Public Schools had previously planned on closing April 2 unrelated to the walkout. Crowder Public Schools and Indianola Public Schools both have a previously scheduled snow day on Monday.

MPS Superintendent Randy Hughes said meals will still be provided on Monday for MPS students via the Meals on Wheels program.

Hughes said in a video posted on the school’s Facebook page Thursday afternoon that school officials would update parents about plans for Tuesday. He added in the video that MPS staff cared about more than just pay increases, and teachers would still travel to the capitol Monday “to advocate for our students.”

QPS Superintendent Stacey Henderson said the school will have class on Friday, April 6, to make up for missing class on Monday and would resume class Tuesday.

Hartshorne Superintendent Jason Lindley said in a letter to parents that the school will “communicate our plans beyond Monday” as soon as possible and to check the school’s social media accounts and messenger apps for details moving forward.

Crowder Public Schools Superintendent Robert Florenzano said the school has a snow day scheduled for Monday, but the school supports the progress being made in funding education.

“After what happened, we are pleased — it’s still not enough— but we are still pleased and not walking,” Florenzano said. “We are very appreciative of what our legislature has done.”

Haywood Public Schools Superintendent Bud Rattan said teachers met on Thursday morning and decided unanimously they would not be walking out.

“They feel confident the governor will sign the bill that was passed,” Rattan said. “It is one of those negotiating things where you don’t always get everything you asked for.”

HB 1023xx — better known as the teacher pay raise bill — would increase the minimum salary schedule by at least $5,000 and would increase average teacher pay by about $6,100 beginning with the 2018-2019 school year.

HB 1026xx — tagged as the support employee pay raise bill — would provide a full-time support employee a pay increase of $1,250 in 2018-2019.

HB1010xx is the first tax increase approved in the state since 1990 and the bill includes increasing the state’s oil and gas production tax to 5 percent, $1 tax increase on cigarettes, 6 cent increase on diesel and 3 cent increase on gasoline. A $5 tax on hotel and motel stays is also included, but the Senate was scheduled to vote Thursday whether to repeal the hotel/motel tax from the package.

Additionally, the Senate passed HB 3705, which would appropriate to the State Department of Education a combined $2.9 billion.

Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest released a statement on the OEA Facebook page stating:

“The passage of HB1010xx is a truly historic moment in Oklahoma. This movement, fueled by the courageous acts of teachers, parents, bus drivers, paraprofessionals, custodians, and community members has forced this legislature to finally act. This historic investment of half a billion dollars will benefit a generation of Oklahoma students and will be felt in every community across this state. While this is major progress, this investment alone will not undo a decade of neglect. Lawmakers have left funding on the table that could be used immediately to help Oklahoma students. There is still work to do to get this legislature to invest more in our classrooms. That work will continue Monday when educators descend on the Capitol.— OEA President Alicia Priest”

The OEA is still demanding a $10,000 pay raise for teachers and $5,000 for support personnel over the next three years. The organization also wants $200 million in additional funding for public schools and $500 million for state employees and other agencies.

The town hall meeting regarding the walkout that was scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at McAlester’s Lucy Smith Center was canceled, according to Hughes.

Contact Lacey Sudderth at lsudderth@mcalesternews.com