Teachers, supporters and students packed the capitol building as the statewide walkout enters the second day.
“Our kids have no voice other than us that are up here. They are not going to fight for their education unless we are their voices,” said elementary school teacher Kayla Melton. “The biggest class size I have had is this year with kindergartners. The overwhelming numbers and not enough desks, or chairs or room to house all that. I have four kindergarten teachers in our building.”
Melton joined thousands of other teachers, who spent hours in line waiting to speak with their representatives and senators. However, tensions flared on Tuesday morning in the House when an attempt by Rep. Scott Inman, D-Del City for SB1086 was unsuccessful.
Teachers began to both cheer and boo in the public gallery.
“We were excited about it. Somebody was finally standing up for us to be heard, and he ordered the sergeant to escort all teachers out of the gallery,” Melton said. “How can you get onto us for being excited for you finally wanting to do something about education and to be escorted out? That is an embarrassment.”
Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Wanette, who presided as Speaker on the floor Tuesday, told News 4 that House rules dictate “decorum is kept at all times.”
Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa, said he believes a repeal of the capital gains exemption would pass the floor if it were up to vote. We asked him why there was pushback on this bill, which has already passed the Senate.
“It’s a very select group of people who will be paying the tax, and they tend to be on the more wealthy end of the income spectrum and you’ve probably got a lot of legislators that maybe may have promised they wouldn’t get rid of the exception on capital gains,” Proctor said.
News 4 also spoke with House majority leader Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City. He said the bill would not move forward this session.
“Capital gains is an issue that hasn’t been fully vetted out,” Echols said. “It’s hard to imagine a more volatile funding source other than capital gains and to have an entire program that is based on HB1010, 50 percent of the revenue came from oil and gas. And, then to attempt to increase that with another volatile funding source like capital gains, it’s just bad public policy.”
Some lawmakers took frustrations from inside the capitol straight to social media, with Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow having a message for teachers.
“You’re losing support of people who supported you all year long. All year long, we supported you and, now, you’re going to come here and act like this after you got a raise? Go right ahead, be pissed me at if you want to,” McDugle said in a Facebook live video.
When questioned by News 4 about the comments he made, McDugle said he regretted posting the video without clarifying why he was frustrated.
“I will still support teachers, but I cannot support the kind of behavior we’re seeing at the capitol,” he said. “We’ve got folks that are blocking legislators’ doors and vandalism in the parking lots is what I was told this morning, and we’ve had several legislators that are receiving death threats.”
News 4 spoke with Oklahoma Highway Patrol officials. We’re told they had not received any reported death threats or cases of vandalism.