Oklahoma teachers, fired up over last spring’s state budget battle and massive teacher walkout, put dozens of candidates on the ballot for Tuesday’s midterm election.
The Oklahoma Education Association said that 16 members of its education caucus – current or former educators, administrators and support staff – were elected to the state House and Senate. Nine are Republicans and seven are Democrats.
The list includes a physical education teacher, a retired school counselor, a junior high principal and an elementary school music teacher.
The winners were among 65 Oklahoma educators who ran for office on Tuesday, according to the teachers union.
Six other educators were elected during the primary, runoff or by acclamation.
Tuesday’s vote grew the education caucus in the Legislature from nine to 25 members.
“There are now more educators in the state legislature than ever before,” the OEA said in a news release. “No matter how you look at it, public education won.”
Republican Kevin Stitt won the governor’s race. He said he would not have signed a teacher pay raise the Legislature earlier approved after the walkout.
He defeated former state Attorney General Drew Edmondson, a Democrat who was a teacher early in his career.
Stitt called for a $5,000 bonus for new certified teachers, promised to raise salaries to be comparable to neighboring states and offered other education revisions. Oklahoma teachers walked out for nine days in April and flooded the state Capitol with protesters to demand better pay and increased education funding.
The state agreed to an increase of $479 million for teacher and support staff salaries for this school year.
“Throughout the campaign, Kevin Stitt talked about making Oklahoma public education one of the best systems in the country. We look forward to working with Gov. Stitt to make his campaign promise a reality. Education has been the No. 1 issue among voters since April and he will have a very strong education caucus in the state legislature to help make our children a true priority,” OEA president Alicia Priest said in a statement.
During a news conference on Tuesday night, Priest told reporters that the results were still coming in, but she was ecstatic about the results.
“We are confident that the legislature that comes to Oklahoma city in January will be very different that the one that we have had in the past who have placed profits above our pupils,” she told reporters.
The National Association of Educators says that almost 1,800 educators ran for state House or Senate seats around the United States this year.