After a nine-day walkout, the Oklahoma Education Association announced Thursday that public school teachers will return to their classrooms after winning an average $6,000 raise, as well as a $1,250 for support staff. The funding will not come from capital gains taxes on the wealthy, as the teachers had demanded, but from new or higher taxes on oil and gas production, tobacco, motor fuels, online sales, and gambling.
Not all of Oklahoma’s rank-and-file were satisfied with ending the walkout, as taxes on things like tobacco are regressive, putting the burden on working class people, whereas a capital gains tax would put the burden on the rich. The striking teachers had pushed for a $10,000 raise and a higher increase in education funding. Throughout the process, Republican Governor Mary Fallin and the state legislature treated the teachers’ demands with disdain, with Fallin comparing them to “a teenage kid that wants a better car.”
But without the teachers’ actions, none of these things would likely have been on the table in the first place. The public was also behind the strike, with 72 percent of Oklahomans saying they supported the teachers, according to a local poll. The next question is whether this energy can translate into electoral victories in the midterms.
“We got here by electing the wrong people to office,” Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said in a press conference. “We have the opportunity to make our voices heard at the ballot box.”
The victory in Oklahoma comes after teachers went on strike—and won—in West Virginia earlier this year. The end to the Oklahoma teachers’ strike also coincides with educators in Kentucky preparing Friday to rally at the state Capitol and teachers in Arizona also considering a walkout.