It’s Too Early to Give Up Now – Keep Up the Pressure
February 14, 2018
I know a lot of you felt pretty defeated after hearing our legislators – once again – had put party politics ahead of our students and public education. After a day of questions and debate, the first bill in the ambitious Step Up Plan failed to garner enough votes, squashing a $5,000 teacher pay raise in the process.
On Monday, Feb. 12, more than 1,000 education employees and friends of education walked the Capitol halls, encouraging support for what could have been an historic victory not only for public schools but for Oklahoma.
We have never seen an organization like the Step Up Coalition, an unbelievably diverse group of private businesses and nonprofit associations. In a very short amount of time, they created a series of bills that gave us that first step to overcoming years of budget shortfalls. It wasn’t perfect and both political parties had to compromise on some of their issues.
Monday was an amazing day for so many reasons and all of them have to do with OEA members. With less than a week’s notice, OEA members sent thousands of emails, made thousands of calls, used social media to draw attention to the Step Up plan, engaged and mobilized at the Capitol and lobbied legislators telling their truths, their daily reality, how the revenue would help them and what a $5,000 raise would do for their families.
I was so inspired and energized by the determination of our members.
After lobbying, our members packed the House gallery and didn’t leave until the vote stuck at 63-35. What you probably don’t know is that negotiations continued until late that night. OEA Executive Director David DuVall was a key player in keeping the talks moving on both sides.
In fact, negotiations are still going on – slowly and tenuously – but still happening. I have learned so much about politics over the last few years. Things are rarely as they seem and what seemed to be a defined end on Monday, wasn’t. Doors may be shut now, but who hasn’t communicated with someone on the other side of a closed door?
Communication continues because NO ONE wants to see us lose more teachers or support professionals, or have a subpar education system for our kids. Our elected officials and business leaders understand the damage that has been done by trying to cut our way to prosperity. The cuts have been a dismal failure. We all know that investing in public education gives our kids the best possible pathway out of poverty. Education is the key to economic prosperity in our state.
I was definitely exhausted Monday night as I stood with House leadership and Step Up officials at the end of a very long day. But at the same time, I felt a sense of hope. Truly, our message has broken through not only to our long-time friends at the Capitol, but also people with whom we’ve had trouble finding common ground.
We must keep up the pressure. OEA’s Together We’re Stronger plan is moving forward. We have pro-public education bills going through the regular session. We will not support one-time gimmicks that wreck future education funding like raids on School Land Commission funds and or TSET. Doing so is not addressing long-term planning and does nothing for sustainable growth revenue that our core services depend on.
Please continue opening and reading emails. If you’re not getting alerts and emails, contact us at OEA headquarters and make sure we have your latest contact info.
OEA members, stand tall, be proud, and keep up the amazing work.
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