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Oklahoma lawmakers approve tax increase for raises, but teachers still plan to strike

West Virginia teachers in Morgantown protested and won, when their 10-day strike resulted in a 5 percent pay raise for teachers. Oklahoma teachers plan to strike on Monday, and lawmakers are coming up short as they try to avoid a statewide strike. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Oklahoma lawmakers are desperately trying to avoid a statewide teacher strike, but appear to be coming up short with the Monday deadline looming, Vox reports.

What’s the story?

The Oklahoma state Senate passed a bill Wednesday to raise taxes on cigarette sales, oil production, and gas to fund teacher raises of about $6,000.

Not good enough, according to the Oklahoma Education Association. The teachers’ union has asked for $10,000 average pay raises over the course of the next three years, as well as a $7,000 raise for school support staff, state employee raises, $200 million in school funding, a cost of living pension adjustment, and more health care funding.

The bill would generate $447 million in revenue through a 3 cent-per-gallon gas tax increase (6 cents for diesel), and a $1 increase on the cigarette tax.

An earlier version of the bill proposed a $5-per-night tax on hotel and motel guests, but it was removed, which led the OEA to stick to its plans to strike.

“While this is major progress, this investment alone will not undo a decade of neglect,” said Alicia Priest, president of the OEA. “There is still work to do to get this Legislature to invest more in our classrooms. That work will continue Monday when educators descend on the Capitol.”

Despite the bill coming short of the union’s demands, Gov. Mary Fallin said she plans to sign it if it reaches her desk.

“I appreciate the House members choosing to put people over politics by approving this package of revenue measures to fund teacher pay raises, as well as provide additional money for the classroom,” Fallin said.

What is the background?

Oklahoma teacher salaries are currently next-to-last in the nation, and have not increased in the past 10 years.

The looming Oklahoma teacher strike has been inspired by the victory teachers in West Virginia won, when their 10-day strike resulted in a 5 percent pay raise for teachers.

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