TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) — It’s been 28 years since Oklahoma teachers walked out, and walked around the Oklahoma Capitol building, demanding raises and school reforms.
“I thought it was awesome because we were stuck. Not unlike now, we were a few votes short,” explained Dr. Carolyn Thompson Taylor, who was a young legislator at the time and who chaired the House Committee on Education. She says she remembers teachers walking around the building in the cold and the rain.
“I think one of the turning points was they did that in the rain, and it was cold. We would look out of our offices at the Capitol, and there would be the teachers holding their rain-drenched signs,” said Taylor, but she says the difference between now and then is politics.
The House and Senate were both Democrat-controlled, and there was a Republican governor; however, they were all working together, Taylor said.
“It’s a different Oklahoma, in some ways. I don’t know if it is because we have become more partisan than we were then, but so has the country. There is largely a one-party government at the state capital. The Republicans have a huge majority in the House and Senate and the executive branch,” said Taylor.
In 1990, the walkout was four days, but now, some districts are authorizing up to 25 days.
Taylor believes the current walkout could impact lawmakers, but one teacher who lobbied at the Capitol says some may show opposition like they did in 1990.
“We actually had one senator that said if we wanted to make, if we wanted more money, we should have married better. I thought, ‘God, I don’t know what to say,’” said Cheryl Huggens, who is now retired.
Taylor believes another walkout may prove successful like the one in 1990.
“I think while this is a dramatic step, it has to be taken because everything else hasn’t worked,” Taylor said.