Oklahoma Teachers are in the process of preparing for a statewide strike amid years of budget shortfalls that have cut into public education budgets.
"The Oklahoma teachers are considering striking during the first week of April, during standardized state testing.
"Frustration levels are high, so a strike is not a touchy word anymore," Molly Jaynes, an Oklahoma City teacher told KTUL. "I think we have surpassed the point of conversations, and I don't think that there's anything the legislators have provided us recently to give us any sort of hope that they're going to take actual actions this time.""
According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute,
bi-partisan bills since 2005 have cut the overall tax base. Due to legislation that requires a supermajority to pass additional taxes, Oklahoma emerged from the 2009 Great Recession incapable of effectively responding
“Even after the economy recovered from a severe national recession, Oklahoma’s funding for core services remains well below pre-recession levels. Many state agencies still operate with one-quarter to one-third less state support compared to fiscal year 2009. Overall, this year’s state appropriated budget is $896 million, or 11.4 percent, below that of 2009 once adjusted for inflation.”
Funding cuts and the resulting decline in wages has led to a teacher shortage as many have moved to neighboring Texas.
"A state that was once near the national average in the percentage of income taxes it collected from residents fell to 48th in the nation by 2014. In addition to about $1 billion in annual income tax cuts, Oklahoma has legislators voted to give between $300 million and $500 million in yearly tax breaks to the oil-and-gas industry, according to Blatt. “It’s been a serious erosion of our tax base,” he said."
A satirical Comedy Central show explains the education funding gap Oklahoma.
Local station KFOR
reported that the 2018 state budget was finally adopted in late February after 2 special sessions for a budget cycle ending in June. The deal included 44.7 million in cuts. State agencies were asked to cut their budgets by 2%. The state is already facing a $167 million shortfall for the 2019 budget.