The state’s largest education association called on teachers Thursday to return to their classrooms after concluding that further attempts to convince lawmakers to find more money for public education would be futile.
Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest said the nearly two-week-long teacher walkout should be seen as a “victory” since it or the threat that preceded it helped secure teacher pay raises and millions in new funding for schools.
But Priest said the Legislature fell short of “its responsibility to Oklahoma’s students” after House and Senate Republican leaders refused to consider additional legislation to raise revenue and add more into the state’s K-12 funding formula.
Priest said educators must now “turn their attention towards the election season” after a majority of the group’s members concluded that continuing the walkout likely wouldn’t change lawmakers’ minds.
The decision to end the walkout, which put the state in the national spotlight as thousands of educators converged on the state Capitol each day, proved to be controversial.
Many teachers took to social media to criticize the move, saying the education association should have continued to try to convince lawmakers to act. And as several school districts announced they would reopen either Friday or Monday, some teachers said they would ignore the OEA’s message and continue the walkout.
Priest, however, maintained that the group’s members are “ready to return to the classroom.”
And she said the decision to end the walkout doesn’t mean they are giving up. She said educators have started a “movement” and can continue their efforts by working to elect pro-education candidates, including teachers who filed for office this week, in the November elections.
“We got here by electing the wrong people to office,” she said. “No more. We must support candidates who have helped us achieve our goals and vote out those who have not.”
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