The OEA is asking for Governor Mary Fallin to veto HB1012xx the hotel/motel $5 tax which could provide $42 million in additional funding, and are asking legislators to remove the tax exemption on capital gains with the support of HB1086.

MIAMI – The Miami Public Schools District teachers joined the Oklahoma Teacher walkout this week for nine consecutive days in a sign of support.

The state legislature is being pushed by teachers from across Oklahoma and their supporters to enact a capital gains tax overhaul that educators claim could help end the statewide walkout now in week two.

Oklahoma legislators have approved nearly $450 million in new taxes and revenue to help fund teachers’ pay and education, but are still short of the $600 million being sought by teachers through the walkout.

The effort is championed by the Oklahoma Education Association asking teachers to stay out of their classrooms until proposed demands are met.

The OEA is asking for Governor Mary Fallin to veto HB1012xx the hotel/motel $5 tax which could provide $42 million in additional funding, and are asking legislators to remove the tax exemption on capital gains with the support of HB1086.

“We support an amendment to ensure small businesses and family farms remain exempt from paying this tax, such as making the tax applicable only to those who make more than $200,000 a year. This would raise $100 million for our students and our state,” OEA claims.

School districts across Ottawa County continue to remain out of session with hundreds of county students affected, and thousands statewide of Oklahoma's 700,000 public school students.

Miami and Wyandotte Public Schools have announced they are closed through Tuesday, April 10, until further notice, and will make decisions based on developments. Fairland Public Schools announced late Monday afternoon they would return to classes on Tuesday. Commerce Public Schools, followed by Quapaw Public Schools Monday evening have announced closure until Friday, April 13 unless a change occurs.

Afton Public Schools and Welch Public Schools returned to class last Tuesday, April 3 and sent delegations to Oklahoma City.

Monday’s protest drew thousands of teacher protesters and supporters including more than 100 lawyers, known as “The Women in Black," dressed in dark clothing who met with Oklahoma lawmakers.

MPS Superintendent Jeremy Hogan sent out the following message on Sunday, “This past week has been challenging! The ongoing statewide teacher walkout has taken a toll on us all and we appreciate your support and encouragement as we continue to fight for our students. We are thankful for the steps taken by our legislature up to this point, but we still have a way to go to fill the hole left by a decade of cuts to state aid formula dollars. I met with our staff Saturday afternoon and it is abundantly clear that we all feel there is more work to be done.”

Hogan wrote, “The message remains clear. This is NOT all about a pay raise, but about protecting OUR students. It is our hope that through our continued efforts we can acquire the funding they need for their education.”

Hogan said in order to allow staff to maintain advocacy at the Capitol and give stakeholders sufficient time to plan, Miami Public Schools would close on Tuesday, April 10 in addition to the previously announced closure of Monday, April 9.

“This will allow our staff and stakeholders the opportunity to further emphasize the need for a long-term commitment supporting our students and our state. It is our hope that our state legislature will find an expedient means to an end so we can return to the classroom, “ Hogan said. “We will notify the public no later than 3 p.m. on Tuesday, April 10 of plans for the following days. The district will continue to provide breakfast and lunch at Nichols Upper Elementary School. Please see our website for more information on district operations during the walkout. Thank you for your understanding and support as we continue in our efforts to provide the best for the students of Miami.”

Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction, made the following remarks after the first week and passage in the Senate of House Bill 1019XX and House Bill 3375, which will add nearly $40 million in dedicated funding to common education:

Hofmeister said, “What we have seen at the Capitol this past week has been groundbreaking. Over the past several days, it has been my privilege to engage hundreds of teachers in face-to-face conversations and to witness firsthand their tireless advocacy to ensure that their students and classrooms have the resources for learning.

“On the heels of landmark legislation signed into law just last week, common education now has received an infusion of nearly $500 million in new revenue. I am grateful for the bipartisan efforts of legislators who have done the right thing to reverse a decade of funding challenges that failed to keep pace with student enrollment and need. The legislation passed this week is tremendous progress, but our students and their education will require continued investment and advocacy for years to come.

“Teachers, your stories have been heard at the Capitol and across the nation. These gains are the result of your fight for kids. I know your hearts are in the classroom. I am inspired by your years of dedication, humbled by your sacrifices and proud of your accomplishments.”

As concerns over testing mount due to Oklahoma’s statewide teacher walkout continuance past one week and districts representing the majority of students announcing school closures into a second week, Hofmeister announced on Monday the extension of the Oklahoma School Testing Program schedule, which was to begin April 2. The adjustment of federally mandated assessments means the testing window for grade 3 through 8 general assessments and grade 11 science assessments are now extended by one week from the original deadline.

“Our schoolchildren must have the opportunity to confidently show their best work. This extension is essential to better support students and ensure an appropriate transition back into classrooms,” stated Hofmeister. “It is also critical that districts have the maximum opportunity possible to meet both state and federal requirements. Federal law requires states to assess 95 percent of the student population. This extension hopefully will prevent jeopardizing of federal funding or incurring penalty.”

The Oklahoma State School Board Association's Executive Director Shawn Hime put out a statement on April 6. which reads, “Today, the Senate’s passage of more revenue puts schools in their strongest financial position in more than a decade. The revenue bills approved the last two weeks generate more than half a billion dollars in new funding for schools.

"Legislators clearly heard the voices of Oklahoma’s teachers, parents and education advocates who said that continued investment in children, teachers and their schools is critical. The phenomenal advocacy of Oklahoma’s teachers has created momentum to ensure that ongoing investment in education is the new normal and that those who want to represent Oklahomans at the state Capitol must support a long-term funding plan for competitive teacher pay and well-resourced classrooms. From every corner of the state, Oklahomans joined with teachers in demanding better for our children, and I’m grateful.

My hope now is local communities will begin a serious conversation about the need for children to return to class so they can finish the school year strong and ensure all of the dedicated employees in our schools can continue to be paid.”

The Oklahoma Democratic Party released the following statement on Day 6 of the education walkout:

“Thousands of teachers have been at the Capitol for over a week. However, Republicans continue to ignore and belittle our state's most valuable resource.

"Gov. Mary Fallin compared teachers to whining teenagers. Rep. McDugle publicly vowed to vote against future education measures. Rep. Enns accused teachers of being paid actors.

"While Republicans degraded teachers, Democratic lawmakers joined the crowds to offer support. Representatives Inman and Goodwin both held open door meetings explaining the process. Gubernatorial candidates Edmondson and Johnson met with the teachers to thank them for their hard work. The Oklahoma Democratic Party has been on-site registering voters and encouraging teachers to run for office.

"The Oklahoma Democratic Party continues to support our teachers and the fight for education funding. When we invest in education, we invest in the growth of Oklahoma.”

Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at mstotts@miaminewsrecord.com or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.