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Morning Bell: A teachers strike years in the making

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The Carl Albert High School JROTC marched in the Oklahoma City St Patrick's Day Parade on March 17. (Photo by Ben Felder)
The Carl Albert High School JROTC marched in the Oklahoma City St Patrick's Day Parade on March 17. (Photo by Ben Felder)

Good Monday morning. It's spring break for most schools across the state. If you're a teacher, school worker, parent or student, here's wishing you a little relaxation over the next few days. 

A possible teachers strike continues to draw most of the attention in Oklahoma education circles. April 2 is the date that thousands of educators are set to begin a walkout, unless the state Legislature meets demands for pay and school funding set by the Oklahoma Education Association. 

If teachers end up walking off the job in two weeks, it will be the culmination of a decade of educator frustration, stemming from a combination of economic and political forces that saw public school budgets slashed, educator positions cut and a dramatic rise in the number of emergency certified teachers leading classrooms. 

Since 2008, state funding for public schools has decreased by nearly 9 percent, while student enrollment has increased by over 8 percent. 

"Since the Great Recession hit Oklahoma, we saw a big drop in funding and that funding has never really come back," said Gene Perry, the strategy and communications director for the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a Tulsa-based think tank. 

I recently wrote about the forces that brought us to this point, when many teachers feel like a strike is their last resort. You can read that story here

Strike's impact on sports?

I get a lot of questions about how a teachers strike will impact high school sports. Well, The Oklahoman's sports crew recently provided some answers. 

Leaders in the high school sports community say they believe most teams will continue playing and most seasons will go on if there is a strike. But they also acknowledge that plans could change, reports Jenni Carlson

Carlson also wrote that to understand how teachers could be on walkout but high school sports could continue, you need to know three words: Extra duty pay.

The Oklahoman's Jacob Unruh wrote about what high school athletic directors are saying about a possible strike. 

“There's so many different avenues that you can take," said Mike Nunley, AD of Edmond Public Schools." There's the avenue that the building is shut down, so we all should shut down. Then there's the avenue that the extracurricular activities are outside the school day and they have different impacting natures than the academic aspect of it and that you can't make up things."

The sports crew has a lot more insight into the impact of a teachers strike on high school athletics, which you can read here

A 'statewide' walkout?

It is a common misconception that there was a statewide school shut down during Oklahoma’s last teacher walkout, reports the Tulsa World's Andrea Eger. For four days in April 1990, teachers protested their pay levels and working conditions en masse at the Capitol, but only 145, or 24 percent, of the state’s then-600 school districts shut down as a result. Many schools have already said they do not plan to participate in a strike next month. 

The impact on two-year colleges

A pay increase for Oklahoma K-12 teachers could have a negative impact on the state's public two-year colleges.

The Oklahoma Education Association is demanding a $10,000 pay raise for teachers over three years.

"If the public schools get the pay raise, they'll be making a lot more money than my folks will," said Jack Bryant, president of Redlands Community College in El Reno.

Bullying complain in Harrah

Parents of a Harrah Middle School student say they are suing their school district for failing to protect their son from violent bullying, reports KOCO

That does it for today's Morning Bell. Have a great Monday!

Related Photos
The Carl Albert High School JROTC marched in the Oklahoma City St Patrick's Day Parade on March 17. (Photo by Ben Felder)

The Carl Albert High School JROTC marched in the Oklahoma City St Patrick's Day Parade on March 17. (Photo by Ben Felder)

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-5d57a1c113055882055577094ca7bf9c.jpg" alt="Photo - The Carl Albert High School JROTC marched in the Oklahoma City St Patrick's Day Parade on March 17. (Photo by Ben Felder)" title="The Carl Albert High School JROTC marched in the Oklahoma City St Patrick's Day Parade on March 17. (Photo by Ben Felder)"><figcaption>The Carl Albert High School JROTC marched in the Oklahoma City St Patrick's Day Parade on March 17. (Photo by Ben Felder)</figcaption></figure>
Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›

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