“Like Drinking from a Fire Hose,” Mitchell on the teacher walkout

Bison Blinds

It’s Spring Break for Luther Public Schools. Teachers are off and kids are out of school for a welcome pause to the grind. While the school doors are closed next week, it is anticipated state lawmakers will address a public demand to fund teachers and public employees. There’s talk of a possible teacher walkout on April 2. The talk is getting stronger by the day.

Rep. Dunnington, Mitchell and Rep. Echols on Your Vote Counts on News 9 and Mitchell Talks.

One Luther media dad who has been all over the issue the last several days is Scott Mitchell of Mitchell & Associates. We know him as Joey’s Dad or Kandyce’s husband, but he is also the Mitchell of Mitchell Talks who gave us the football podcast last fall with Coach Zack Smith. Mitchell also is frequently on News 9 interviewing politicians and newsmakers on the issues of the day. He was one of the first to interview the president of the Oklahoma Education Association last week after the walkout was detailed by OEA. He interviewed Representatives Jon Echols (R), majority floor leader, and Jason Dunnington (D) on Sunday live on News9 and again on FB Live at Mitchell Talks. 

After all of the talking and listening, what is Mitchell’s analysis? Has the legislature received the message that teachers, and also state employees, might walk off the job en masse if something isn’t done?

“I’m not sure both sides have grasped precisely the fuse that they’re lighting,” he said.

He said if educators want to be loud and instigate chaos, the walkout will do that, but Mitchell adds that an old school demonstration like the one 28 years ago might not be as effective today with so many other tools available to make one’s message heard. Teachers walked out in 1990 resulting in the passage of HB1017 which led to some education reform. Logistically, he points out that the capitol is under construction and accessible through only a couple of doors so thousands (or tens of thousands) of teachers storming the capitol might not be as effective or satisfying as those same teachers taking to social media to get their legislator’s attention or staging protests nearby.

He calls it high tech, if not high touch.

Mitchell also notes that he doesn’t think all of the ramifications of a walkout have been considered. While churches and community groups are thinking through daycare, feeding and other non-educational services that public school provide for families – he wonders what a prolonged strike would do to baseball and track season, music activities, and even the prom and graduation. He said there will be unintended consequences under this fast-moving plan, and likens it to trying to drink out of a fire hose.

A Luther Register poll on Friday showed support for a Teacher Walkout if their demands for a raise are not met.

It seems the legislature has the power to turn off the fire hose. While Mitchell says there are plenty of lawmakers who have voted for every teacher raise bill that’s been presented recently, there haven’t been enough votes to get the super-majority needed for revenue-raising measures such as increased taxes on cigarettes, the gross production tax on oil, motor fuel taxes or anything else. We remember that Oklahoma voters passed a state question in 1992 that made it impossible to raise taxes without the 75% approval in each house. It’s called the most restrictive revenue-raising measure in the United States, and some are wondering whether it’s time to undo it – but that would take another initiative petition and a vote of the people.

Monday begins a new legislative week. Keep up with Mitchell Talks for the latest. Have you contacted your own legislator to communicate your opinion? Find your representative through this link. For most of us in Luther, we are represented by Lewis Moore (R) in the House and Ron Sharp (R) in the Senate, who is vice chair of the Senate Education Committee.

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