House repeals hotel/motel tax in revenue bill, heading to Senate

Posted March 31, 2018

Many SPS educators took to the streets with signs Wednesday evening while trying to rally community support for Monday's walkout.

In Oklahoma, the Republican-led legislature passed a bill raising taxes on the gas and oil industry as well as on cigarettes to provide public schools with more funding. It also includes a tax on hotel and motel lodging, however that will likely be repealed. Senate officials said those votes would happen Thursday. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City said the expected revenue generated from that tax would have been around $47 million but there were concerns.

Governor Mary Fallon, also a Republican, said she would sign the bill.

"It's always been about our student's needs", she said Friday.

"It is completely about the students - even the teacher pay raise is about students", Priest said. I'm proud of our state.

School districts statewide, meanwhile, were re-evaluating whether they want to allow teachers to skip class next week in order to come to the Capitol to advocate.

Legislators are already getting "beat up by their constituents" in their home districts for agreeing to raise taxes, said Ginger Tinney, executive director of the Professional Oklahoma Educators association.

-A teacher rebellion that started in the hills of West Virginia spread like a prairie fire to Oklahoma this week and now threatens to reach the desert in Arizona.

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At 47th, Oklahoma ranks poorly in public school revenue per student, which is $3,000 per year. Teacher compensation is the lowest in the region and among the lowest in the country, according to education groups. The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) has been pushing for a $10,000 raise for teachers and $5,000 raise for education support professionals over three years. The regional average was $48,450.

"We are grateful for this impressive teacher pay raise, but we also know that our kids have the need for supplies and resources that can't be understated", said state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister as she stood outside the Senate chamber following the vote.

A host of Tulsa-area schools have announced school closures for next week because of the looming teacher walkout.

More experienced classroom teachers would receive an even larger raise based on years of service and certification.

"That'll be up to the teachers, but I hope that they can come up here, say "thank you" on Monday and go back to the classrooms", Fallin said. "Lawmakers have left funding on the table that could be used immediately to help Oklahoma students". "There is still work to do to get this Legislature to invest more in our classrooms". Educators still plan to march at the Capitol April 2 to pressure lawmakers to spend more on schools and public employees and continue a debate that has highlighted growing gaps and frustrations over taxes and government.

With less funding, many cash-strapped schools have gone to four-day weeks, while certifying a growing number of emergency teachers to fill vacant jobs.

"Basically, how are their babies going to eat while they're doing this walkout to stand up for them", McGavock said.

"I think it is going to be a real heavy lift to get agreement on approving any of those additional revenues", Blatt said.

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