Political News

Oklahoma legislators who opposed teacher pay bill are voted out

Posted August 29, 2018 7:17 p.m. EDT

— Six Oklahoma House representatives who voted against the state's teacher pay bill lost their primary runoff elections on Tuesday night.

"Instead of making our case at the steps of the Capitol, we have the opportunity to make our voices heard at the ballot box," Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest said on April 12, after teachers in the state went on strike for nine days.

The teachers and their supporters appear to have followed through.

Of the 19 legislators who voted against the teacher pay bill in the state House, 15 now won't be returning to Oklahoma City next year: Eight lost their primaries, four are not running for office and three are leaving because of term limits.

Two state representatives who opposed the teacher pay bill won their primary races and two others ran unopposed in their primaries.

Of the 10 state senators who voted against the teacher pay bill, six are guaranteed to return. Term limits require two to leave and one decided not to run again.

One state senator, Mark Allen, won his primary.

The Oklahoma Education Association wasted no time in touting its success in booting the legislators from office.

"The movement continues," the organization posted on Facebook.

University of Oklahoma political science professor Keith Gaddie said teachers and the OEA were critical components in ousting the legislators.

"The educators made this happen. The teachers made this happen," he said. "OEA was one of several players that contributed to the downfall of these lawmakers."

Gaddie said their impact is guaranteed to reverberate into the general election.

How teachers are affecting Oklahoma politics

"All over the state, we have been holding forums, town halls," said Priest. "From the time we stopped the walkouts to yesterday, we have not stopped working on campaigns and elections."

Priest said they couldn't have done it without community support, but credited mobilization efforts by teachers across the state.

Now that the primaries are in the past, teachers are pushing a simple message, "Remember in November."

In addition to working on the campaigns of others, teachers, administrators, education support professionals and some college professors are running for office.

Out of 112 education-related primary candidates, the OEA said 56 it supported have made it through the primaries.

The new political activity is boosting Democrats' hopes for possibly flipping the state governor's seat. GOP candidate Kevin Stitt, who is running to replace term-limited Gov. Mary Fallin, said he would not have signed the teacher pay bill into law.

The teacher's vision extends beyond November.

"By us working on campaigns, we develop relationships with the legislators that are making the laws on what our salaries are," Priest said. "That's how we move our story forward."

They hope those politicians will reach out to teachers and education professionals for input on legislation related to teacher pay and education standards.

Most recently, the wave of teacher strikes across the United States has spread to Washington. Seattle teachers will go on strike September 5 if a deal cannot be reached on their contracts.