The news of the walkout changed so often that it was hard to keep up. Most recently House Bill 1010XX was passed through both houses of legislature and ended up on Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk
on Thursday, March 29th, the same day Jenks teachers met in the building 6 auditorium to discuss the looming teacher walkout scheduled for Monday, April 2nd.
House Bill 1010XX will raise the price of cigarettes $1, add 3 cents to a gallon of gasoline, and add 6 cents to a gallon of diesel. 1010XX will also increase the gross production drilling tax from 2% to 5%, and will add a $5 fee to hotel and motel rooms.
Walking in the doors of the auditorium you could see teachers sitting together, smiling, chatting clad in green (to show their support for teacher pay raise). Some however, sat alone arms crossed, legs crossed, a cold look in their eyes. The room quickly went quiet when Mike Horn took to the podium. Horn praised the teachers that have been leaders in this push for reform. Teachers such as, Victoria Vargas, Jennifer Roberts, Liz Wright, Todd Humphrey, and Ken Sloane. Each name was echoed by deafening applause.
Horn then welcomed Jenks Superintendent, Dr. Stacy Butterfield to the podium. Butterfield praised how historic and momentous the work done by teachers in the last few weeks to bring about change was. She called for celebration, almost exactly when the news came in that that Fallin had in fact signed the bill. Many teachers in the meeting were still concerned with the discrepancy of what was asked by the OEA (Oklahoma Education Association) and what 1010XX will give. A picture was sent out over the Teacher Walkout Remind 101 group text that illustrates these differences.
At this point in the meeting I was perplexed. I had been hearing so much about teachers and staff walking out until they get what they want, Not walking out for a day so they can celebrate a lowball offer. My concerns and confusions were lulled later in the meeting when it was time for questions and statements and the audiences’ true opinions came to the forefront. Teachers expressed discontent with lack of concrete decisions. Jenks teacher Tanner Culbreath asked if OEA was happy with what 1010XX gave them. Others voiced concerns of where they would be meeting on Monday.
“Explain to me how this funding is working…it sounds like its a band-aid on someone bleeding out,” says Cat Kohen. This statement received a tremendous applause from the packed room. (If you would like to hear our private interview with Koehn click here)
Finally the lack of answers was too much for Victoria Vargas when she stood up and asked the room, “Are you going April 2nd?” to which the crowd responded, “Yes!”
Liz Wright stood amongst the cheers and spoke, “Are you going April 3rd?” to which the crowd responded, “Yes!”
Mike Horn asked from the podium, “Question, April 4th? April 5th? April…” he was cut off by an impatient, “Yes!” from the crowd.
It is now Wednesday, April 4th. Oklahoma teachers are still at the capital, vying for reform, and don’t appear to be leaving soon.
By Jett Millican