Patrick B. McGuigan and Stacy Martin
Oklahoma’s long-awaited teacher walkout began Tuesday (April 2), even after legislation raising taxes and increasing teacher pay was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday. The organization which became the public face of the tax hike is the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), the state’s largest labor union. But there are many other lesser-known, but nonetheless powerful and influential, organizations which work for increased government spending on education.
The two largest entities are the Oklahoma State School Boards Association (OSSBA) and the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA). They are private associations funded largely with a combination of dues and fees paid by tax-financed public-school districts, and by revenue generated through partnerships with a range of businesses and other non-government entities. Lists of some of the financial contributors can be found at the OOSBA and CCOSA websites.
Moreover, according to its website, CCOSA “is the umbrella organization for the following professional associations: the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators (OASA), the Oklahoma Association of Secondary School Principals (OASSP), the Oklahoma Association of Elementary School Principals (OAESP), the Oklahoma Middle Level Education Association (OMLEA), and the Oklahoma Directors of Special Services (ODSS).”
Both OSSBA and CCOSA hold training sessions for members involved in many aspects of public education governance.
Smaller associations with similar, but not identical, missions include the United Suburban Schools Association (USSA) and the Organization of Rural Elementary Schools (ORES).
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is a constituent union of the AFL-CIO. The AFT’s largest dues-paying membership in Oklahoma consists of teachers in the Oklahoma City Public Schools. The AFT advanced ideas of its own for tax increases this year, but in the last month began to work closely with other elements of the tax increase alliance, including its traditional rival, the OEA.
Professional Oklahoma Educators (POE) was established as an explicitly non-union organization for classroom teachers in public schools and has in the last several years reached a critical mass of several thousand members.
Individual school districts also play an important role in the alliance for increased spending, with administrative and/or school board actions to authorize days away from teaching for educators, including a work stoppage that will begin on April 2. While not every district or school board is pre-authorizing a work stoppage (avoiding in most cases the word “strike,” even as memories of the 1990 strike are invoked), many districts have done so.
In the legal arena, one firm that would benefit from expansion of (i.e., more revenue for) the status quo is the Tulsa-based law firm of Rosenstein, Fist, and Ringold, which represents some 300 public school districts.
Finally, a wide range of businesses deploy resources that benefit education-related organizations.
These include but are not limited to Pearson, a textbook company which provides many of the state’s textbooks; equipment companies (such as those that make or sell schools buses); website and other technology-related firms; and Kellogg & Sovereign Consulting, a firm that provides bonding services to around 300 public school districts.
[Find a related report on OEA membership declines here.