Oklahoma teachers set April 2 strike deadline - KTEN.com - Texoma news, weather and sports

Oklahoma teachers set April 2 strike deadline

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Classrooms across Oklahoma could be empty on April 2 if teachers go on strike. (KTEN) Classrooms across Oklahoma could be empty on April 2 if teachers go on strike. (KTEN)

ARDMORE, Okla. -- Oklahoma teachers say if lawmakers don't find a way to give them a raise by April 1, they'll go on strike the next day.

This discussion has been going on for years in the state, but lawmakers can't seem to agree on a way to get more money to schools.

Educators are demanding a $10,000 pay hike after a decade of foot-dragging.

"Whether they strike or not, we are going to try to get that teacher pay raise done," said Oklahoma state Rep. Pat Ownbey (R-District 48).

The Oklahoma Education Association called for a statewide school shutdown if lawmakers fail to take action in the next three-and-a-half weeks.

Confusion about the deadline came Tuesday night after the union considered changing the date to April 23.

"The communication coming out of OEA has not been clear, and for that, I am sorry," OEA president Alicia Priest said.

The date was changed back to April 2, and Ownbey said that puts lawmakers in a bind, because there's only one way to get the requested funds.

"It's all about revenue," he said.  Oklahoma lawmakers haven't passed a revenue-raising bill in more than 20 years.

"The biggest obstacle in the room is that three-quarter requirement, and it's not something that the legislature imposed on themselves... that's something the people of Oklahoma imposed on the legislature to make sure it would be difficult to raise revenues,"  Ownbey said. "Quite frankly, it's working."

He's referring to a 1992 measure that mandates all tax increase proposals be approved by three-quarters of the legislature.

A bill from last year is sitting in the Senate; Ownbey said if it passed, the state would be able to give teachers a raise of about $2,000.

It's unclear if that would satisfy the OEA.

"We will not allow lawmakers to once again shortchange our students, our teachers, and our support professionals," Priest said.

Ownbey didn't speak of any new legislation, but we'll continue closely follow what happens in the crucial weeks to come.

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