Ray Carter | March 7, 2024

Oklahoma Senate votes to bar teacher coercion

Ray Carter

Under legislation approved by the Oklahoma Senate, it could soon be illegal for school officials to pressure or require teachers to participate in union activities.

Under Senate Bill 1513, by state Sen. Julie Daniels, officials at Oklahoma public schools would be prohibited from “coercing school district employees to meet, communicate, listen to, or otherwise interact with an employee organization or statewide professional educators’ association” or from distributing “communications or membership solicitations” on behalf of a union.

The legislation would also prohibit school officials from granting teacher-union leaders “access to or use of the school district’s meetings, events, facilities, communications systems, computer systems, equipment, supplies, or other resources on terms more favorable than extended to any other employee organization or statewide professional educators’ association seeking similar access or use.”

Daniels said the bill recognizes teachers are professionals who should be free to meet with a union, or not, based on their own decisions.

“I respect the professionalism of teachers,” said Daniels, R-Bartlesville. “These are career people. They should know who they want to talk to, what they want to do with their time, what’s the best use of their time.”

State Sen. Carri Hicks, an Oklahoma City Democrat who was a teacher and union member, opposed the legislation, saying the bill made no meaningful changes to existing state law—but then argued it would harm teacher unions anyway.

“I believe that this is adding an additional attack on our education associations in our state, of which I continue to be a proud member of,” Hicks said.

SB 1513 passed the Oklahoma Senate on a 28-14 vote. The bill now proceeds to the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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