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Morning Bell: OKC teachers went on strike in 1979

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Jim McGinley was one of nearly 1,000 Oklahoma City teachers who went on strike in 1979. (Photo provided)
Jim McGinley was one of nearly 1,000 Oklahoma City teachers who went on strike in 1979. (Photo provided)

The state's first teacher strike took place in 1979, when more than 1,000 teachers at Oklahoma City Public Schools walked off the job for 12 days, eventually pushing administrators to approve a 9 percent pay raise.

Marissa McGinley, a fourth-grade teacher at Coronado Heights Elementary School in Oklahoma City, came across a photo of her father taking part in the march. It's a photo she has used in her class when teaching about civic engagement and she said was "empowering to see." The photo is above, my story on Marissa and her father's involvement in the 1979 strike is here

What's the difference between a strike and walkout? Randy Krehbiel of the Tulsa World attempts to answer the question. Hint: There isn't a difference. 

GPT question will face voters

A group trying to give teachers a pay raise through increased oil and natural gas taxes can continue an initiative petition process to get the measure on November's ballot, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

The question would ask voters whether to change state law to set a flat 7 percent gross production tax on oil and natural gas wells drilled and produced in Oklahoma. The tax rate currently is 2 percent for the first three years of a well's production. After three years, the production is taxed at the 7 percent rate.

It could generate an additional $333 million a year. Referred to as State Question 795, the initiative proposes using about $240 million of that increase to provide each public school teacher a $4,000 annual raise.

The group also proposes providing Oklahoma's early childhood education programs with about $30 million a year and using the remaining $63 million generated by the increase to hire additional teachers. You can read more here

Teacher pay plan? Two measures pending before the Oklahoma Legislature plus growth revenue could fund a teacher pay raise of close to $5,000, a House leader said Monday.

Yukon schools receive EPA funding for buses

Yukon Public Schools will receive $200,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency to replace 10 buses in its aging fleet.

Last week, the EPA awarded more than $8.7 million to replace or retrofit 452 diesel school buses around the country as part of an effort to reduce harmful pollutants linked to asthma and lung damage. The funds went to 141 districts in 32 states.

Jason Brunk, Yukon's assistant superintendent of human resources, said new buses cost about $72,000 each. EPA funds will cover 28 percent of the $720,000 price tag.

“That $200,000 is going to be a big help,” he said. “(These) ten buses, we needed to replace anyway and so, basically, it gets the cost down to $52,000 from the $72,000 (each).”

MAPS for Kids wraps up 

With the Oklahoma City council's vote to terminate the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Area Public Schools Trust, the MAPS for Kids initiative that won voters' approval in 2001 is officially going out of existence.

Over 17 years, about $700 million was spent to refurbish schools and build new ones in the Oklahoma City Public Schools district and 23 suburban districts.

While inner-city schools have not achieved hoped-for academic improvements, City Manager Jim Couch told trustees last month the district would be worse off if not for MAPS for Kids.

"I think we have to reflect back on the fact that if we hadn't done what we've done with the buildings ... the Oklahoma City School District wouldn't be to the level they are today," he said.

March For Our Lives: Students are planning to march and rally this Saturday against gun violence. I recently spoke with two students helping to organize the March For Our Lives rally in Oklahoma City, scheduled for March 24. 

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

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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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