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Legislature should support Oklahoma support staff

Bus driver standing in front of a busThe statewide shutdown has highlighted a major gap in Oklahoma law: Support staff aren’t getting paid the same way as teachers and administrators.

In these uncertain times, certified employees don’t have to worry about whether their paycheck will come. That’s not true of our support staff.

But the Oklahoma Legislature can solve this problem.

For now, the Capitol is closed, and lawmakers are not voting. When they come back, we will advocate for support staff pay to be a top priority.

What can you do now?

Learn the facts so you are ready to advocate for yourself and your coworkers when the legislative session resumes.

Support staff have no protection

Many Oklahomans already have pay protection. 

For example, teachers, administrators,and other certified staff members will be paid during an epidemic, such as what we’re experiencing with the coronavirus. State employees can be put on paid administrative leave during a public health emergency. 

School support staff aren’t given the same pay protection. That’s 40,000 Oklahomans who are at risk of not having a paycheck during these uncertain times. 

Some school districts, like Tulsa Public Schools, have guaranteed their employees will be paid, but there is no such guarantee for many support staff. 

That’s why we need a single, statewide solution in law.  

What the Oklahoma Legislature can do

Oklahoma State Capitol and cowboy statueWe ask the Oklahoma Legislature to amend current law to give support staff paid leave when they can’t work because of an epidemic, a pandemic, or whenever school is forced to close.

This change would give support staff the same protection as their coworkers and state employees. Support staff would be able to maintain their employment and not have to file for unemployment.

That consistency will also help reduce turnover. We want to stay in our jobs, but if we are forced out, we will have to look for other work and leave our students.

Support staff in Oklahoma

Paraprofessional reading to studentsOklahoma school districts employ more than 40,000 support staff members. 

Anyone who has worked in a school knows that school would not happen without these employees.

Here are the biggest employee groups: 

  • 12,000 paraprofessionals and teacher aides
  • 4,000 cafeteria workers
  • 4,000 school bus drivers
  • 4,000 school secretaries
  • 4,000 custodians
  • 3,000 secretaries 

Our coalition

The Oklahoma Education Association isn’t the only group worried about this problem. Five other organizations are partnering with us in our call to action at the legislature: