Oklahoma teachers pack Capitol building to full capacity

Posted at 6:03 PM, Apr 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-03 22:43:25-04

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Emotions ran high at the state Capitol today as teachers continue the fight for education funding, packing the building to capacity. 

On day two of the Oklahoma Teacher Walkout,  lines wrapped around the Capitol as teachers brought their rally inside. However, not all were able to immediately get in to face lawmakers, and were forced to wait hours in lines outside. Oklahoma Highway Patrol said the amount of people inside the Capitol reached capacity, therefore security had to enforce a “one in, one out” rule.

“We are seeing people leave,” Jennifer Breuklander, a teacher said. “At least 50 people have left the building and this line has not moved.”

Teachers said they felt the process of allowing teachers in was not being done fairly.

“I absolutely think they are trying to shut the doors and keep us out of our Capitol building,” Breuklander said. “They don’t want to hear our voices.”

For years educators have fought for more funding for classrooms, even inviting lawmakers to come see the problems firsthand. On Tuesday, they felt this invitation was not reciprocated.

“Our classroom doors are open,” Breuklander said. “Come to our classrooms. See what we are dealing with. And we stand here his morning with the doors closed.”

At one point in the day, security came outside to address teachers about why the line to get inside the Capitol was moving so slowly.

“We have employees,” a security guard said. “We have meetings and we have people working here. We’re doing the best we can.”

Some teachers, however, were not buying it.

“Here are the people,” Cassie Pierce, an Oklahoma teacher said. “Let us talk to you. Listen to what we have to say. That’s what you say your job is, so let us do that please.”

The difficult access inside the Capitol only added fuel to educators’ fire. 

“This is the issue,” Karen Farmer, a public school psychologist said. “Lack of funding for 10 years!”

Budget deficits imposed by the state have eliminated resources for children in athletics, fine arts, extracurricular activities and even for those with special needs. That is just to name a few.

“Increase our funding,” Farmer said. “The metaphor I gave to my seven-year-old daughter last night was that if the government has promised us the equivalent of $10, they’ve only given us $1 to $2. It’s not enough!”

The fight to have these issues heard inside the Capitol on Tuesday was a waiting game for many, but teacher’s did not back down. Many chanted how they would continue to stay in line and return for as long as they needed. As each day comes to an end, educators said another will follow until demands are met. 

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