Oklahoma lawmaker compares teachers' demands to extortion in meeting with students

Rep. Jeff Coody speaks with students from Cache, Okla. and says the demands of Oklahoma teachers are "akin to extortion." (Oklahomans for Public Education)

TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) -- Teachers are getting support from across the state as they ask for pay raises and more funding for education, but not everyone is on board with their demands.

One Oklahoma lawmaker found himself in front of students from his district, equating teachers' demands to extortion. Video of their meeting now has more than 150,000 views on Facebook.

State Rep. Jeff Coody, R-District 63, represents Comanche and Tillman counties. He met recently with a group of Cache students, telling them they'll be the ones to suffer as a result of a walkout.

"The problem that we're dealing with with this proposed walkout, aside from the legality or illegality of it, is that now the public employees are wanting to get in on the deal and they're wanting to jump in and walk out as well," said Coody.

The lawmaker said demands for $10,000 teacher pay raises with another $5,000 for support staff and $7,500 for state workers comes with a hefty price tag -- about $1.5 billion to $1.8 billion.

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"Well that's over a third of what we allocate in our legislative appropriations," said Coody. "That's virtually impossible. Really, honestly, it's akin to extortion."

Coody, who was elected in 2014, said the students would suffer if a walkout begins April 2, interfering with state testing. But one student took issue with the representative's comments, saying they are already suffering with burgeoning class sizes and little funding.

"I would be a completely AP student but our school district doesn't have enough money to do that," said the student. "We have people that have been certified that have no businesS teaching what they've been teaching. We have teachers that have been having to work at McDonald's and mow lawns just to make ends meet, and its' ridiculous."

The student told Coody he should consider that many of the students before him are on the verge of being able to vote when he comes up for re-election.

On Tuesday, Coody attempted to clarify the statement.

"Extortion was probably too harsh a term to use, I would walk that back, but what their total demand was I think was unrealistic and not a viable possibility," said Coody.

He says the comment was referring to the piling on of demands from state employees.

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