Walkout length uncertain

Staff Writers

Mustang schools will be closed through at least the end of this week as teachers continue to participate in a walkout at the state Capitol.
Mustang Education Association President Mark Webb said he and other representatives of the Oklahoma Education Association have continued to lobby legislators for additional educational funding since the walkout began Monday.
The OEA is pressing for the Legislature to adopt an additional revenue package that would total an estimated $200 million in revenue, part of which would go to schools, Webb said.
The walkout could continue into next week, Webb said.
Mustang Superintendent Dr. Sean McDaniel sent out a survey late Tuesday to determine teachers’ support of continuing the walkout the rest of the week.
The results showed that most teachers wanted to continue their efforts in Oklahoma City.
Shannon Rigsby, a spokesperson for the district, said Mustang schools will be closed Thursday and Friday. A decision on next week will be made later this week, she said.
Meanwhile, MEA members lined State Highway 152 near Mustang Road on Tuesday, Webb said.
“We covered about two-thirds of the mile to Sara Road,” he said.
“Most drivers were supportive,” he said. “Only a couple of them gave a thumb’s down.”
Teachers walked out four days in a successful bid for more funding in 1990, Webb noted.
“It may take longer this year,” he said.
He acknowledged that, at some point in a protracted walkout, public support the teachers could lessen.
The additional funding that teachers seek would come from increased taxes on capital gains, lodging and expansion of casino gambling to include “ball and dice” games.
However, as of Wednesday, the state House has declined to take up those issues.
Rep. Rhonda Baker, on Tuesday, said there will be no more money for education this year.
“We gave teachers raises, we did give support staff raises and we have put money into the formula. I will tell you that teachers are very vocal right now and are advocating for education. I’m trying to be as honest as I can be with every teacher who comes to see me. There is no more money that we are giving you,” Baker said.
Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, said much of the concern from teachers is a proposal to add $5 per night to hotel and motel rooms. She said the Senate was unaware of the proposal until the day before it was added to the legislation.
It was rejected by the Senate because of concerns that it might drive away convention business.
A similar move several years ago cost Midwest City at least four conventions, she said.
Baker said despite the decision not to move forward with the hotel-motel fee, improvements in the economy should cover those losses.
“We are looking at ways to replenish that. … We are under the belief that the money will be there and we won’t have to pass another tax,” Baker said.
In fact, Baker said she would not vote for another tax increase.
“I appreciate the teachers who are coming to advocate for their classrooms and are advocating for the profession, but there is no more money that will be given this year. I will not put my vote this year on any other taxes. It has been very difficult to put my vote on a tax to begin with, but I have done so in the hope that we could restore some confidence in our agencies,” Baker said.
Bice said lawmakers are getting mixed signals on how education professionals want the money spent.
“We felt it made sense to put more money into teacher pay and less into the classroom. Now, all the things we are hearing, ‘Dang it, you should have put more in the classroom.’ We can’t win for losing. We felt that we were hearing that pay was more important. Now, it’s just the opposite. It’s frustrating on our part,” Bice said.

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