Ada schools will close on Election Day this year so school employees can vote and encourage their relatives, friends and neighbors to go to the polls.
The Ada Board of Education voted 4-0 Monday — President Keri Norris was absent — to close schools on Nov. 6 and reopen the following day. Nov. 7 was originally scheduled as an early release day for students, allowing the district to schedule a professional development session for teachers, but it will now be a regular school day.
The decision to close schools on Election Day reflects the importance of this year’s elections, Superintendent Mike Anderson said Thursday.
“It’s a show of support for our teachers because I personally believe that this election cycle is probably the most important for public education that I’ve seen in my career,” he said. “So we wanted to make sure that our teachers knew that we support them in their efforts in what’s gone on in the past, but that we need to continue to educate our community and make November 6 an important date.”
Election Day closings
Other school districts across the state have chosen to shut down on Nov. 6 in light of the ongoing debate over school finance and teachers’ pay.
In March, lawmakers approved a plan to boost teachers’ wages by an average of $6,100 a year and give raises to school support staffers and state works. The Legislature financed the plan with a $474 million tax package that included higher gross production taxes, a $1 per-pack tax on cigarettes and other revenue-generating measures.
Despite those gains, educators across Oklahoma and their supporters walked off the job April 2 and descended on the state Capitol, where they pressed lawmakers to pump even more money into public schools. By the time the nine-day walkout ended, lawmakers had pledged an extra $479 million for public schools.
The Oklahoma Education Association called off the walkout on April 12, after union officials said it was clear that the Legislature would not consider any more bills related to school funding.
The grassroots group Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite, which opposes the tax package that funded the teacher pay raise plan, has launched a petition drive aimed at putting the tax increases on the November ballot. If the issue makes it onto the ballot, voters will decide whether to repeal the tax increases or let them stand.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court heard legal challenges to Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite’s petition earlier this week and is expected to issue a ruling soon.
Anderson said the Ada school district’s decision to close on Election Day was related to the events of last spring and the possibility that voters will decide the fate of the recent tax package.
“Our advocacy doesn’t start and stop,” he said. “It’s got to be a continuous, ongoing effort.”