Yukon teachers rally at Capitol

After one day at the state Capitol, Yukon teachers say they are not exactly satisfied by the results of a teacher walkout that began Monday.

Vicki Bonny, the president of the Yukon Professional Educators Association, said more than 100 of its members traveled Monday to the Capitol in hopes of finding support for additional funding for education.

“I thought everything went well. There were a lot of people there and the legislators were available. I’m glad we got to talk to them,” she said.

Bonny said she and her group were able to meet with Rep. J.P. Jordan, while others met with Rep. Rhonda Baker and Sen. Stephanie Bice.

However, Bonny said they were not able to get a commitment from the lawmakers about continued work on education funding.

“That was our purpose … to see what they would do. We never got a commitment on additional funding,” Bonny said.

About 150 of Yukon’s teachers turned out for the event. There are about 248 members of the union.

More than 80 teachers rode buses to the Capitol for the walkout, while others drove.

Bonny said the association paid for the bus after receiving a donation from Ramona Manwarren, of Manco Homes. Manwarren is the mother of Yukon teacher Candi Smith.

“This was the first day,” she said by phone late Monday. “We will be going back Tuesday and Wednesday.”

The state Legislature recently passed a $447 million tax bill that includes increases in taxes on fuel, tobacco and the production of oil and natural gas.  They also voted to remove a tax credit for capital gains.

As a result of the tax bill, Oklahoma teachers will receive, on average, a $6,100 pay raise.

Bonny said that while teachers appreciate the raise, this week’s fight is not about pay raises for themselves. It is for higher pay for their co-workers in support areas, as well as increased funding for textbooks and technology.

Bonny said it has been many years since support staff employees have received pay raises.

“They are just as important as any other part of our school,” Bonny said of support staff.

Yukon Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth agreed that support staff personnel have not received pay raises from the state. However, in Yukon, they have had pay increases anytime teachers received raises.

Those raises may not have been significant, but there have been raises, he said.

Bonny, who teaches fourth grade at Lakeview Elementary, said she has 26 students in her class.

“We got our pay raise. We are happy to have that, but at the same time we didn’t get the funding for our support staff or textbooks. A school can’t function without that,” she said.

She also said they would continue to fight for funding.

“Is it ideal? No, but at the same time we are there to make smaller classes and to give them the textbooks they need. It really is about the kids,” Bonny said.

She also said the association would decide Wednesday whether the walkout will continue.

“I think that as long as there are schools willing to stay, we will continue,” Bonny said.

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