I guess it’s time to pull a Regular Jim Traber and give it up to ourselves.
Last week, while watching the teachers’ strike unfold in West Virginia, I asked the question that every Oklahoman with a brain was thinking – “What’s up with Sonic’s new mushroom-filled burgers? Do they taste like real hamburgers? Is an Oklahoma-based company actually being environmentally conscious for once? Didn’t our legislature ban that last session?”
I then asked the question that not enough people were thinking – “Why haven’t Oklahoma teachers gone on strike???” Here’s a snippet:
After the success in West Virginia, how can Oklahoma’s largest teachers union not be organizing a strike or walk out at this very moment? Best case scenario – it will create national media attention and negative publicity for the state, motivating image-conscious oil overlords and their minions at the capitol to abandon failed trickle down policies and consent to meaningful tax reform that helps all Oklahomans, including our underpaid teachers. Worst case scenario – teachers get to use some of their accrued sick time.
Well, it’s good to see our absurdly strong and influential publishing power being put to good use! Hours after our engaging article was published, online petitions and Facebook groups formed and spread like a red cedar-fueled grass fire across the Oklahoma social media scene. “Oklahoma Teacher Walkout – The Time Is Now!”, a group that was obviously inspired by our powerful, insightful blog posting, quickly gained 60,000 followers and received national media attention. And it was all thanks to us!
Okay, I’m exaggerating. We don’t deserve any credit. I just thought it would be fun to stay in Regular Jim Traber mode and glorify our publishing power just like he does his MLB career.
Anyway, it looks like the social media campaigns have worked. Under the watchful eye of the national for-profit media, and with the backing of school boards, superintendents, crossing guards and lunch ladies, The Oklahoma Education Association officially announced this week that a teacher strike is in the works. Here are the details via a local newspaper:
Oklahoma’s largest teacher union says “schools will shut down” if a pay raise for teachers is not approved by April 23.
According to statement from the Oklahoma Education Association, the union “met with more than 200 superintendents from across Oklahoma today, and the group came to consensus: April 23 will be the deadline for lawmakers to fund pay raises and education needs. After that, schools will shut down.”
Wait a second. April 23rd? That’s six weeks away. The Thunder will be knocked out of the playoffs by then. What are they waiting for?
(Editor’s Note: Right after I hit publish and started cooking a quesadilla, the OEA announced they have moved things up to April 2nd.)
OEA Executive Director David DuVall explained in a Q&A with a local newspaper:
Q: Why was April 23 selected?
David DuVall: April 23 is the legislative deadline for bills to come out of the House. Thursday we are going to have a press conference where we are going to release our plan, which includes what we need from this legislative session to fund education and we are even going to suggest some revenue measures to pay for it. When that comes out hopefully that will spur the Legislature to act.
But we know that’s going to take a little bit of time for the Legislature to put together. In the meantime, our plan is that on April 2 we are going to show up at the Capitol in some large group, not shutting down schools on that day, but to say we need you to do your job and if it’s not done by this date we are going to be shutting down schools. It’s also to allow us some time to allow those negotiations to take place.
That’s cute. The OEA wants lawmakers will put aside political ideologies and do their job. I give them an A+ for naivety and optimism.
Here are some details of the OEA’s plan:
BF: I know you have a press conference planned for Thursday, but how much of a pay raise will you be asking for?
We have to have a $10,000 teacher pay increase over the next three years, and additional money for school operations. We are not going to ask teachers to shut down schools to just have them put a band-aid on this. We also need the (Legislature) to provide operational funds for our school districts to buy textbooks and technology. We have hit a critical stage
To be clear, I fully support teachers going on strike. I also support a $10,000 raise. It’s a big increase, but it’s needed and deserved. Teachers have been underpaid in this state for too long and it’s time to make it up to them.
That being said, I’m kind of worried about what this OEA plan will look like. Teacher pay raises should be funded by the individuals and corporations that benefited from the bad policies that put our state in this mess – you know, things like low gross production tax rates and income tax reductions for the ridiculously rich. Every plan the OEA has supported and backed seems to do the opposite.
For example, not only did the OEA lend their might and support behind the Oil Overlord’s Step Up Oklahoma, a Band-aid proposal that primarily benefited oil companies and teachers and that’s about it, but they also enthusiastically endorsed and embraced oil industry shill David Boren’s equally-awful SQ 779. Both plans would have disproportionately raised taxes on the poor and middle class to fund teacher pay raises, while leaving wealthy Oklahomans and oil companies in the clear.
In all fairness, I guess you can’t blame the OEA for working with those groups and individuals. The organization wants to get teachers a pay raise, and usually the best way to accomplish that is to sell out to the politicians and oligarchs in charge, but this movement feels different. It seems more populist and anti-establishment. Hopefully the OEA actually works with the people behind this social media movement and not the establishment folks who want to control them.
Anyway, I guess we’ll wait and see what will OEA proposes tomorrow. Until then, I’d like to thank Oklahoma teachers and educators for reading. Now go get a new Sonic burger and tell me what they’re like.