Debate starts on Oklahoma education bills

This week Oklahoma teachers went on strike- walking out of their classrooms to demand lawmakers approve more funding for things like textbooks and technology in the classroom

On Monday, thousands descended upon the state Capitol in Frankfurt to rally for additional education funding.

The head of Oklahoma's largest teachers' union says if lawmakers want to end a teacher walkout, they must pass a repeal of the capital gains tax that is expected to generate about $120 million.

"There's ways to do things that draw teachers here", said high school theater instructor Troy Powell, who teaches for Union Public Schools.

Ginger Tinney, the executive director of the Professional Oklahoma Educators, which represents about 12,000 teachers, said she believes public support for teachers will wane if schools remain closed. "According to officials with the Senate, public employee raises will break down as follows: State employees making $40,000 or less get a $2,000 raise; state employee making $40,000 to $50,000 get a $1,500 raise; those making $50,000 to $60,000 get a $1,000 raise and employees making $60,000 or more get a $750 raise". A Senate leader says lawmakers plan to consider "substantive" legislation.

Despite these measures, teachers continue to rally for funding to be fully restored to Oklahoma education. Teachers have not said when the walkout will end.

The educators and state government are at odds over salaries and funding.

Fallin has faced the brunt of criticism from teachers, many of whom blame the term-limited governor for supporting tax cuts and generous state subsidies for businesses that have led to declines in state funding for schools and other state services.

On Wednesday, the Department of Public Safety said that it has identified and monitoring "a growing number" of outside protest groups but wouldn't provide specifics.

The state Senate says it will vote on a handful of bills tomorrow, Oklahoma Watch reported.

Senate Floor Leader Greg Treat, a key negotiator on the budget, said union leaders are shifting their focus.

A teacher walkout in Oklahoma is entering its third day in a red state rebellion stretching from West Virginia to Arizona that is putting Republicans on the spot over public education. The plan, which has been signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin, gives teachers an average raise of $6,100.

Most people said they expect educators to remain at the Capitol for the rest of the week, although the Legislature doesn't typically meet on Fridays.

When teachers came to Frankfort on Monday to protest the pension overhaul, the state Legislature passed changes to the tax system called House Bill 366.

You have been redirected from 24 Hours. One special session, one regular.

Teachers in Oklahoma and Arizona are among the lowest paid in the nation.

But Hazell said even after the almost six-thousand dollar teacher pay raise, some of the protesters are getting out of hand.

In Kentucky, teachers also protested in their state Capitol earlier this week in Frankfort.

Gov. Mary Fallin, also a Republican, angered teachers when she compared their stance to "a teenage kid that wants a better car" in an interview with CBS News.

"For years they have been adding more and more and more on to teachers and we have been putting up with all of it", Sudduth, 29, said.

School closings will continue to be made on a day-to-day basis for any days following Friday.

Oklahoma Republicans passed a tax hike for hundreds of millions of new dollars for public schools and teacher pay raises. They brought pent-up with them frustration after years of budget cuts, swelling class sizes and a decade without a raise.

Many teachers already are back at work, especially in rural communities where local boards didn't vote to shut down.

Some Oklahoma school districts say they will close for a fourth day in anticipation of a continued walkout by teachers demanding more funding for classrooms.

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