and the millions of dollars procured for text books—the largest education funding of its kind in Oklahoma history —was signed into law prior to the walk-out and is still in effect.
The protest was billed as a demand for more funding for “the children” of Oklahoma, but the reality is that the protest was less about what the teachers needed to help students and more about politics and ideology. In fact, in spite of Oklahoma being a “red state”, the organizers of this rally were quite the opposite with roots in very “blue” states and organization.
In other words, the protest was essentially nothing more than a 2018 campaign move that pushed an agenda which exploited the very children that it reported to support.
While a number of educators on the ground were earnest in their intention to help their students, it was clear that this protest was largely a political stunt pushed by Oklahoma organizations in concert with national organizations during an election year.
Some of the participants included the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), who organized the protests, its parent organization, the National Education Association, paid Teamsters union members and the George Soros-backed organization The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools.
Before the protest even began the state had already appropriated funding for the largest raises for teachers in Oklahoma history. This afforded an average of $6100.00 per year for school teachers. But according to Oklahoma’s largest teacher organization Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), and the teacher’s union Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers; the raise “just wasn’t enough”.
Interviews conducted at the capital during the protests revealed varying points of view. Some of the protesters were truly concerned for the state of education in Oklahoma. But, there was no shortage of typical leftist rabble-rousers complete with “tax the rich” signs and quick tempers to those who questioned the protest.
A teacher’s Facebook reply on the Oklahoma Teacher Walkout page also showed how extreme leftist some of the participants were. When a poster simply called for an audit to the education system, Tulsa teacher, Melody Lawrence Hale’s reply was a slanderous attack accusing the poster of being a “hateful, right wing conspiracy theory promoting Trump loving, AR 15 toting NRA ‘don’t tread on me’ nut job”.
Overall, beyond the “need for funding” there were very few who were in agreement of how to come up with the funding. Many seemed to be getting their information and drive from the head of the OEA, Alicia Priest, who throughout the protests, upset lawmakers by repeatedly changing OEA demands.
But Oklahoma lawmakers were not the only ones frustrated by the OEA. Teachers admitted that the OEA had spoken very little to them, thus leaving them in the dark. One teacher Audrey Stadler from the Tulsa area said, during a news interview with a local station News 9, “Honestly the OEA is not talking to us. They don’t have that network in place…”
The OEA and other teachers’ union organizations seemed, for the most part to be acting autonomously while the teachers protested for “more funding” without a clear understanding of the actual financial goals.
Sadly, it appears that the walkout organizers simply used the teachers on the ground to advance political causes. While teachers were asking for more money for school supplies, Alicia Priest was calling on Oklahoma’s governor and legislature to veto a recently repealed motel/hotel tax.
Along with the Ed Allen, who heads the Oklahoma Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, Priest made several other tax demands that would most certainly affect Oklahomans of all financial walks of life. They demanded adjustments to alcohol taxes, increases in fuel taxes, eliminating the capital gains deduction, and capping itemized -non-charitable deductions.
Eliminating the capital gains deduction alone could theoretically provide $100 million, and a veto to repeal hotel-motel tax, an additional $45 million. This is far more that what was initially asked for by the OEA.
On Friday, April 6th, Priest told reporters that the strike would end if those two issues were addressed, but when asked by reporters if she expected all of the potentially $145 million, she said “No” but would not say how much she expected to be earmarked for public schools.
The teacher walk-out was supposed to be strictly about funding education. Yet demanding bills be passed that would raise tax revenues, especially without being purposed for the school system is not the role of the OEA or any other teacher’s union organization.
A reporter also asked Priest if the teacher walk-out would end if the two measures had been met even if they provided no additional money for education and her response was “I think that we have to get them passed and [then] work on getting funding to education.”
In other words the OEA is more interested in raising taxes and getting involved in politics than funding education. Many of the teachers on the ground followed the OEA’s lead in moving forward with a walk out that they assumed would not happen if certain demands had been met during the initial legislative process.
In addition the nonprofit leftist organization Oklahoma’s Children Our Future (OCOF), posted ad campaigns that began running the day the teachers’ strike began. The extensive coordination it took to place the ads give reason to assume that the walk out was going to occur regardless of the initial legislative outcome.
In essence, when Dr. Jason Simeroth the superintendent of the Yukon School District held a town hall meeting back on March 13th to discuss the “possible” teacher walk-out, he likely knew that the walk-out was already scheduled to take place. During the protests, Simeroth had been an enthusiastic supporter of the cause in spite of his $172,000 yearly salary.
OCOF was a super PAC during the 2016 election year promoting a school funding ballot initiative that overwhelmingly failed. According to a report filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, the group’s largest contributors come from outside of the state. The 4th quarter reports shows that Stand for Children, Inc., a Portland Oregon leftist group, contributed more than $2 million to the campaign and the National Association of Educators, OEA’s parent, contributed three-quarters of a million as well.
But outside influencers did not come solely in the form of large nonprofits. Reports from the Oklahoma Department of Safety identified a “growing number of outside protest groups, not involved with the ongoing teachers’ rally” at the Capital Building in Oklahoma City.
According to Representative Kevin McDugle, R-Wagoner, at the time, “We’ve got folks that are blocking legislators’ doors and vandalism in the parking lot.” McDugle also claimed that legislators had received death threats.
As mentioned earlier, many of the teachers involved in the protests had different points of view. Interviews conducted with several teachers who seemed truly concerned actually produced some interesting information.
Almost every teacher interviewed was in favor of consolidating districts even though the OEA has stood steadfast against the idea. When some of these teachers were told that superintendents seemed to be against consolidation, many said that they weren’t surprised and literally all of them expressed some form of disgust with their district heads.
One teacher, on condition of anonymity stated that she felt that the entire educated system should be audited. “Where is the money going?”, she asked. “They don’t tell us anything and I can tell you from personal experience, superintendents don’t do much for teachers in general, in fact mine is almost always out of town. Who is paying for his travels?”
The protests had a large share of hard-line leftist types as well among those who claimed to be teachers. On several occasions protesters who overheard interviews being conducted tried to disrupt the questioning by making loud noises or begin arguing with typical rhetoric that had nothing to do with the topic being discussed.
One example occurred when a woman, a presumed educator, rudely jumped in without cause and quoted the fact the Oklahoma was rated 47th in taxation and suggested that the state should run its taxation more like California, which, according to her, an educated teacher, ranks highly in education and spends “way less” on prisoners. Politifat.com reports that California ranks 41st in the nation in per-student spending, but number one in spending per-prisoner—a claim that has been falsely made about Oklahoma . California is also the poverty capital of the United States, largely due to its tax system.
In spite of all of the rhetoric of “helping children”, very little was actually mentioned of the intended outcome of acquiring more money for education. There was much said of outdated textbooks, teachers paying for supplies, and teachers having to drive old vehicles. Yet hardly a word spoken of what the expected outcome would be if all the money asked for was raised.
The question of the day should have been, “Will this make students smarter or more educated?” It is a very simple question that certainly deserves to be answered when millions tax payer dollars are at stake. However, protesters who were asked this question seemed ill-prepared to answer it.
Of the many times it was asked, only one person answered with an emphatic “yes” without thinking about it and in a tone that was defiant. Of those who were more
sincere, the answers varied, and suggested that not much thought had been given to the idea.
The OEA itself never came close to offering what the results might be if education was “fully funded”. In fact the unions only presented the havoc and devastation that would occur if the money wasn’t enough.
There should be accountability for the amounts of money being demanded from the taxpayers. After all, every year government programs ask for more and more money, yet don’t deliver on their stated claim. Both the Federal Department of Education and Head Start programs were implemented in the late 60 and late 70s to “improve education”, but academic assessments indicate that education in general is in decline.
Perhaps one of the most disheartening points of the protest was the involvement of children in the politically-charged environment. This protest was clearly a political stunt and many of the teachers had encouraged their students to participate. Teachers understand that most children and adolescents are not developed psychologically enough to seek facts beyond what they are told in order to evaluate both sides of an issue.
Obviously the teachers who did this did not present both sides of the argument, but instead used their position of authority over young minds to sway student thinking and bring about their highly publicized support.
Aside from teachers who have their own children as family support, educators should not be using their position to influence young minds in the class room politically. After all, it is the parents’ responsibility to decide how to best teach their children on issues in society.
Leftist activist and teachers stirring young people to get involved without presenting the facts on all sides is immoral. This entire protest was the result of people being used in the act of advancing a political agenda with the students being the most vulnerable and valuable to the cause. Educators presenting “their side” only to their students hamper the very critical thinking skills that they are responsible for teaching.
Oklahoma is a red state and, while many parents were also misled to support the teachers unions, there were many others who did not agree with the cause, but whose children were and are subject to in-class indoctrination regarding the matter.
In the end, Alicia Priest called off the protest and tried to sell it as “a success”. The reality is that the legislative period was coming to an end and there was little else that could be done. Beyond what was already procured prior to the protest.
The truth is: The success that Priest is referring to is that of having misled the public by exploiting children and some truly caring educators in order to advance a political agenda. The OEA, and all of its associated leftist organizations are no more than a group of pseudo-intellectuals hell-bent on failed Marxist ideas. They are against the American and Oklahoma standard of freedom, and will lie to the public in order to steal it. And, in the end, THAT is what this is really about.