Fallin to sign House bill increasing teacher pay, education funding

Abby Turner , Editor of 4E Voices

Breaking News: Superintendent Chuck McCauley has confirmed that school will be out for all Bartlesville Public School students on Monday April 2.

Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin has confirmed her intention to sign the $477 million revenue package that would increase teacher pay, school funding, etc.

After the house approved HB1010xx, the title of the proposed bill, it was passed to the Senate. Late Wednesday evening, the Senate agreed with the bill and narrowly passed it. The House and the Senate are now involved in an Easter break that lasts until Monday, but Fallin has full authority to sign bills into law during a recess.

After the Senate passed the bill onto Fallin, she stated that she “absolutely” plans to sign off on the tax hikes. These tax hikes, in view of educational benefit, will provide millions towards teacher pay, as well as preventing school closures throughout the state.

Schools statewide have been planning walkouts to protest the legislature’s failure to pass the Step Up Oklahoma plan. Protests were over the $22 million in cuts to education, as well as the lack of increase in teacher salary in a decade.

Junior Mary Wiley spoke to hundreds of students who participated in the walk out. She and others had the opportunity to rouse the crowd with inspiring speeches about the future of public education. With this tax increase some supporters believe some of the hopes will come to fruition.

When Wiley heard of Fallin’s intention to sign the bill she said she was surprised.

“I’m very happy that education is finally getting the funding and recognition that it deserves, but it is sad that we had to set this ultimatum in order to make progress,” she said.

Although this increase can be perceived as an exciting step towards recognizing the cuts that education takes, many argue that the bill still did not provide the funding that schools truly need. Some believe that teachers were snubbed the $10,000, since the pay raise will be just shy of $8,000. There is no language in the bill determining whether or not the money will be equally distributed to teachers.

“I think it’s important that our legislature took the first step toward proper funding, but I do believe that the teachers deserve more. I hope that they will continue to make reasonable increases to teacher pay in the future,” Wiley said.

The walkout has been set for April 2. If Fallin signs the bill on Thursday, March 30, some schools may not participate in the walkout. Schools in accordance to the Oklahoma Education Association, otherwise known as the OEA, will likely continue on with the walkout. The situation remains fluid at schools like Bartlesville High School.

Kris Martens, has been a teacher for 11 years in total, 9 of which have been spent in Bartlesville. She teaches Spanish and Yearbook, and is in support of students using their voices towards change.

“In my opinion, Bartlesville were the leaders that started this coalition of the time is now movement. But, I think now as leaders we should not let the legislators bully us into backing down,” Martens said.

With the student walkout occurring in late February, there has been a variety of conflicts in opposition towards the suspension. The proposal was a controversial one, but to Martens a necessary one without doubt.

Martens said, “I felt like I wanted to fight for education by walking out. I would have felt proud to make action towards it, instead of falling to a compromise.”

To Martens, the suggested bill is not the one teachers and students have been fighting for. Bargaining with the legislature is demeaning the value and hard work that teachers and students have been putting towards their campaign.

“I feel as if we’re going back on what we originally state. We are the leaders in this revolution, but when we still don’t have enough money ten years from now, what will we do if we decide to give into a smaller amount of money now?” Martens said.

With current news, it seems as if Fallin will go through with signing the bill. What is unclear is what reaction schools will have to it. Some may be overjoyed to even be getting anything at all, while others will still fight with the OEA to receive greater funding for education.