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Together We’re Stronger: The Movement Continues

In 2017, OEA leaders and members from across Oklahoma set out on a mission to restore education funding in our state. 

Public education has struggled with slashed budgets, stagnant wages, and a crippling teacher shortage for a decade. That’s when OEA sparked Together We’re Stronger, a three-year initiative designed to trigger legislative and local action to boost funding

The highpoint was the teacher walkout in April 2018. Tens of thousands of teachers, support staff, students, and families packed the halls of the Oklahoma State Capitol and crowded the lawns in every direction.

It was a watershed moment that lead to huge gains for public education in 2018 and 2019.

Now we’re looking at the legislative session for the third year of Together We’re Stronger, and despite great progress, work still lies ahead. 

Here’s where we stand. 

School Funding

Three-Year Goal: $200 million in additional education funding to begin closing the gap left by a decade of cuts by the Oklahoma Legislature.

Progress: Lawmakers added $50 million to education funding because of the walkout in 2018, and last year another $75 million was added to the formula.

2020 Goal: $75 million. Education funding remains the No. 1 issue for OEA members

Teacher Pay

Three-Year Goal: $10,000 for certified employees. 

Progress: Teacher pay made the most progress in 2018, with an average pay raise of $6,100 added to the state minimum salary schedule. This year, lawmakers gave districts an average of $1,220 per educator to disburse as they chose.

2020 Goal: $2,680. 

Support Staff Pay

Three-Year Goal: $5,000 for support professionals.

Progress: Support professional pay has been a challenge at the Capitol. The legislature gave support staff a state-mandated $1,250 pay raise because of the 2018 walkout, but did nothing for these employees last year.

2020 Goal: $3,750. 

Cost-of-Living Adjustment for Retirees

Three-Year Goal: Cost-of-living pension increase, which can be funded completely through the pension system itself without harming the system or finding new money.

Progress: Lawmakers gave retirees a paltry stipend in 2018 and then put a COLA bill on ice in 2019 session. An interim study in November 2019 showed that all public employee retirement systems — including the Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System — are healthy enough to fund a COLA.

2020 Goal: A true cost-of-living adjustment.