Teacher Work Stoppage

With momentum toward a teacher work stoppage continuing to grow, OSSBA has compiled resources to support school districts and school board members.

Sample board resolution

Guidance for Teacher Work Stoppage

Special education guidance

Webinar on teacher work stoppage (register via the member portal)

Unemployment FAQ

Veto Referendum FAQ

Possible Teacher Work Stoppage Guidance

Can teachers legally participate in a work stoppage?

Legal reference: Oklahoma law only has one statute that addresses the issue of a strike, and it applies only in the context of negotiations with the local school board.

The procedure provided for herein for resolving impasses shall be the exclusive recourse of the organization. It shall be illegal for the organization to strike or threaten to strike as a means of resolving differences with the board of education. Any member of an organization engaging in a strike shall be denied the full amount of his wages during the period of such violation. If the organization or its members engage in a strike, then the organization shall cease to be recognized as representative of the unit and the school district shall be relieved of the duty to negotiate with such organization or its representatives. 70 O.S. Section 509.8.

Analysis: This is an issue of local control.

Issues to consider if a district opts to suspend school operations in response to a work stoppage

  1. School calendar: District policy may authorize the superintendent to adjust the school calendar to reflect a time period of suspended operations, although a school board may wish to take a formal vote.
    • Staff would not be able to receive new compensation while operations are suspended. (Article 10, Section 15 of the Oklahoma Constitution prohibits gifting of public resources).
    • Because Oklahoma schools pay for teacher services over a 12-month period, those employees would have accrued some compensation to which they are entitled.
    • Once a school district falls below the contracted 180 days/1,080 hours in the calendar, then pay would be deducted at one day’s rate of pay per day of the work stoppage.
    • Hourly support employees would not be able to be paid for time not worked.
    • When the calendar is adjusted to make up lost days/hours, hourly support employees would be paid for work performed. Districts can choose to allow support employees to continue to work during a work stoppage.
  2. Leave: If school operations are suspended, it is unnecessary for employees to take leave.
  3. Employee benefits: Employee benefits can be affected for employees during the suspension of school operations in response to a work stoppage.
    • Teacher Retirement. As long as teachers work the required contracted hours, they will be credited for a year of service in the Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System.
    • Health Insurance. Each district should talk to their provider to determine the possible impacts to employee health benefits.
    • Extra duties related to student activities. The school board can authorize continuance of extracurricular and co-curricular activities.
  4. Student issues: District leaders must consider a variety of student issues related to a work stoppage.
    • Graduation standards. Local school boards determine whether students have met local and state graduation requirements.
    • Extracurricular/co-curricular activities. The school board can authorize continuance of extracurricular and co-curricular activities.
    • Supervision/child nutrition. School districts are encouraged to work with community partners for supervision and nutrition options.
  5. Returning to school: There are two methods that would allow the resumption of school operations.
    • If the superintendent authorized the suspension, the superintendent has the authority to resume operations.
    • If the board voted to alter the calendar, the board should vote to resume school.
  6. Time requirements: What happens to a district if it doesn’t meet the 180 days/1,080 hours requirement?
    • Districts can seek relief from the state board of education but could be cited for accreditation deficiencies and/or be assessed a reduction in state aid.

Issues to consider if a district opts to stay open

A board may wish to consider a few options to support increased teacher pay while not closing school.

  1. Board resolution: OSSBA has a sample resolution available.
  2. Advocacy Day: Oklahoma law allows school districts to advocate. See Attorney General Opinion 95-14.
    • Without instruction. The school board could vote to establish an “advocacy day” that will not count towards hours of instruction for students but would count as work hours for employees to advocate at the Capitol.
    • With instruction. Administration could designate an advocacy team while providing for instruction to continue. Please check your local bargaining agreement for applicable provisions.
  3. Leave: The use of personal leave by individual employees is subject to board policy.

What should I know about unemployment related to the work stoppage?

School districts may be face unemployment liability due to the work stoppage. Jessica Sherrill, director of OSSBA’s unemployment program, has created an FAQ on this topic. You can download it here. Please make sure you read this important information about how a work stoppage could affect your district’s budget regarding unemployment costs. School districts could be required to pay up to $506 per week per employee in unemployment benefits even if employees are being paid while off work when school is out.

Referendum petition

The day after legislators approved the largest-revenue raising package in state history, a new group called Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite announced it would seek to overturn the legislative action via a statewide veto referendum. Please note no petition has yet been filed or circulated. OSSBA’s legal team has put together the following information to answer some of the frequently asked questions we are hearing from school board members and administrators. Download the FAQ here.

 

Use of district resources

Can a teacher organization use school time and/or equipment to organize a work stoppage?

  • This question is not addressed in law. It would be wise for teachers and teacher organizations to use personal equipment and time to organize a work stoppage.