Oklahoma public school teachers are about to walk out.
After West Virginia teachers went on strike for nine days and ended up getting a 5 percent
salary increase, Oklahoma teachers decided the time for change was now.
Oklahoma ranks 50th in the nation for teacher pay. Currently, about 62 school districts are in
support of suspending school. A recent poll conducted by NewsOK.com reported 88 percent of
Oklahomans support a teacher strike.
Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said if lawmakers do not come
up with an “acceptable” solution by April 1st, then Oklahoma schools will be forced to shut
“Our school communities are desperate for change because we know what’s at stake here: the
future of our students and this great state,” she said.
Priest says their goal is to force the legislature to pass a plan that provides teachers and
professionals a “significant” pay raise and restores critical funding to classrooms.
“They must work swiftly to follow the law and pass an education budget by April 1st,” she said.
If their solution doesn’t meet the demands of the pay raise, Priest says OEA will call for
statewide school closures beginning April 2nd.
Priest said the OEA is demanding the bill include a $6,000 pay raise this year, and $2,000 for
each of the next two years.
“We will be at the capitol until a solution has passed and has been signed by the governor. We
are all in this together and we have the same goal,” she said. “Together we can win this for our
students. Together, we are stronger.”
Yukon Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth said walkouts “aren’t easy” but
something needs to be done.
“We will support whatever our teachers decide to do, because they’re not fighting for just
paychecks,” he said. “They’re fighting for respect, they’re fighting for your kids and your
grandkids, and for the future of public education in Oklahoma.”
In a video posted on the YPS Facebook page, Simeroth addressed many concerns regarding
parents and students. He assured parents that seniors will still graduate, concurrent courses will
still be available, and Canadian Valley Technology Center is still going to be running. He also
added that if school is cancelled, absents will not count at all towards any student.
Simeroth said the school board had metro superintendent meetings last week, discussing the
circumstances of whether or not they’d have after-school activities.
“The vote of the majority of metro school districts support having our after-school activities, but,
of course, that depends on the teachers who are coaches and the sponsors,” he said. “If they
see this as part of their obligation to walk out and not participate, well we’re going to honor that
He knows spring sports such as baseball, soccer, golf, and track are relying on scholarships,
and students can’t achieve that if their activities are cancelled.
A major concern right now is if schools shut down, some students will not have a place to stay
during the day or have a meal provided. However, Simeroth said the district will take care of
“We’re going to provide some opportunities to feed our kids, at the cost of the school district.”
He said there’ll be locations around the district, providing a lunch from “11 a.m. to 1 p.m..”
Amber Childress worked in the Texas school system for five and a half years before relocating
to Oklahoma with her husband.
She was a paraprofessional for special education, also known as a teacher’s aide. In Perryton,
Texas she worked 8-4 p.m. five days a week, making $15,000 a year.
She moved to Yukon last year and searched for anything she could in surrounding cities.
However, after her first interview she realized she could not make a living in education and
resorted to working in retail.
“I came in the middle of the year so I figured subbing would be my best choice,” Childress said.
“After the very first interview, they said they were only going to do fifty dollars [a day] for
subbing. That doesn’t even pay for gas.”
If the pay was better, she said she’d be a paraprofessional for the rest of her life. She said the
Oklahoma Legislature needs to understand that people like her want to work for the school
system but it’s not possible.
“We have families to take care of, so we choose other careers or other jobs,” Childress, a
mother of three said. “If Oklahoma actually cares about their kids, they’re going to take care of it.
Either do it, or stay at the bottom. If you want to stay at the bottom, you’re going to get paid the
She said the Texas school system takes better care of their support staff, which includes aides
and substitute teachers. “I’m not saying everything in Texas is better because it’s not, but they
do know to start at the schools,” she said.
She added that Oklahoma teachers have worked “their butts off,” they deserve better, and have
to take a stand somewhere.
“My mother-in-law was a substitute teacher for Oklahoma schools in Ponca City. Twenty years
ago, she was making fifty dollars a day. Twenty years later, she was still only getting fifty dollars
Like a majority of all teachers, Childress and her mother-in-law paid out of pocket to provide
school supplies for the classroom.
“I know my mother-in-law spent half her paycheck on her classroom or her students…that’s not
worth it,” she said.
Childress, her husband, and daughter will be at the capitol April 2nd protesting for teachers
rights. She has a lot of teachers in her own family and wants others to know that they’re not
“We love our students, but that doesn’t feed our children. It’s not going to put gas in our cars, or
let our kids get extra ‘anything’,” she said. “Oklahoma needs to step up.”