MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Muskogee Education Association members agreed on Monday to join a statewide teacher walkout, tentatively set for April 1.
Muskogee Public Schools teachers packed the Muskogee High cafeteria Monday for the special MEA meeting. They voted to authorize MEA President Mike Walcutt to tell MPS administration about their plans for the walkout.
After the meeting, MEA members agreed to protest after school on Thursday across Shawnee Bypass from Muskogee High School near Muskogee County Republican headquarters.
Walcutt, who teaches math at MHS, said the tentative statewide walkout will be preceded by a "work to contract" protest, beginning March 12.
"We are contracted under our negotiated agreement to be here at 7:30 a.m. each day. We will not come in early," he said. "We are contracted to leave at 3 p.m. That's when we leave. We're not going to take our work home with us."
Teachers also will not stay for clubs or other activities, he said.
"We're going to leave at 3 p.m."
He said sports coaches, who get stipends, will be able to stay after school for practices.
"We're not here to screw the kids over," Walcutt said.
He told those in attendance that when they get off work, instead of grading papers, they will pick up a protest sign and protest.
Teachers continue the "work to contract" action the week after spring break, March 19-23, he said.
Walcutt said the Oklahoma Education Association is calling for a $10,000 pay raise for teachers and a $5,000 pay raise for support personnel. The OEA also wants more state money appropriated for education, he said.
He gave MEA members a tentative walkout timeline.
On April 2, teachers, school officials, Chamber of Commerce leaders and others will be asked to protest at the State Capitol, Walcutt said.
"We're going to say "state law, the Constitution, says you have to give us an education budget before April 1," he said. "Today's April 2, where's our budget?"
Teachers snickered at Walcutt's comment.
"If they don't have a budget on April 3, we start walking," he said.
Wallcutt said a few school districts will walk out on April 3. Different districts will walk out on April 4. Different ones will walk out on April 5.
"The first week, we'll have 20 schools walk out. The second week, we'll have 30 schools walk out," he said. "On May 1, everybody walks out."
Walcutt said such actions will be taken in steps to ease impact on students.
"This isn't all about walking out," Walcutt said. "It's about getting our pay raise. This is about education funding. This is about getting the Legislature to do what's right. They haven't done it."
Walcutt said that in State of the State addresses over the past three years, Gov. Mary Fallin has told the Legislature to give the teachers a raise.
"They haven't done it. They keep breaking promises to us," Walcutt said. "We may need to do something about it."
Walcutt said the walkout could affect remaining school days and high school graduation if it continues.
"Technically, we will not go on strike. They're going to suspend school, Walcutt said, as MEA members applauded.
Walcutt said school boards across Oklahoma are being asked to pass resolutions supporting the teachers.
The next regular Muskogee Board of Education meeting is 6 p.m. March 13. At the February board meeting, Superintendent Mike Garde said he and the board would support the teachers.