Hundreds gather in Duncan for teacher pay raise forum

DUNCAN, OK (KSWO) - Hundreds of people were on hand at Duncan High School, Monday, as the Oklahoma Education Association presented their plan for teacher pay raises.

Years of growing frustration have finally reached a boiling point as The Oklahoma Education Association announced last week that they are giving the legislature until April 1st to find a way to fund teacher pay raises.

If they do not reach a solution, OEA President Alicia Priest said schools will begin closing and teacher will march on the state capitol.

Teachers all across Oklahoma have shown their support for the walkout, including Michele Scott, who is the Director of Special Education for Duncan Public Schools.

"I will definitely be at the capitol on April 2nd. I think we had a teacher stand up and say I'm not going to be sitting on my hands or twiddling my thumbs, I'm going to be up there and will be up there with my teachers," Scott said.

Scott said she firmly believes teachers need pay raises and education desperately needs funding. She's seen what the lack of funding can do in Duncan, where she has had a vacant teaching position in her department for over a year.

"My class sizes are bigger than I would like, it's impacting our ability to make the individualized education plans really, really effective for kids. We do the best we can, we've got some great teachers working late hours and early morning to make those things happen. They're doing the best they can but we can do better," Scott said.

The walkout will happen April 2nd if millions of dollars aren't directed towards education. The OEA is asking for $10,000 pay raises for all teachers, as well as $5,000 pay raises for support staff. They also want $200 million to go towards general education funding and a 5-percent cost of living for retired teachers. Priest said that right now, whether or not the teachers walk out is completely up to our lawmakers.

"The goal is funding for public education. If our legislature gets it done then talk of a teacher walkout goes away. The talk of shutting down schools goes away. All the worry and all the questions go away because we know our legislature is investing in the kids of Oklahoma," Priest said.

Duncan Superintendent Melanie Hau also spoke at the meeting. She broke down the logistics of how the teacher walkout would work in Duncan. She said if the walkout happens, there are days built into the school calendar that they could possibly use to make up for the missed days.

Duncan will also have a school board meeting Tuesday night where the potential walkout will be discussed further.

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