So it wasn't a huge surprise last year when teachers in the state walked out. While they didn't get everything they wanted, they were still confident that they has sent a message to the legislature.
Apparently some legislators misunderstood the message.
Oklahoma's political leaders could have looked at the walkout and said, "Damn , we need to spend more on education" or "Damn, if we don't get our act together, we'll never recruit enough teachers to help with our ongoing teacher shortage" or even, "Damn, we have got to find a way to suck less."
Nope. The conclusion some legislators reached was, "Damn, we let teachers talk too much."
|This frickin' guy.|
And he's the guy pushing HB 2214. It doesn't have a name, so let's just call it the Shut Oklahoma Teachers The Hell Up Act. SOTTHUA is an amendment to the previous act that was supposed to already have shut teachers up by making it illegal to strike. But it's only a strike if a teachers union takes action against its local school board; when all the teachers walk out because of the state legislature, that's just a walk out and it was previously completely legal. So Russ (did I mention that his wife is a public school teacher??) has plugged the holes with this language:
It shall be illegal for the board of education or school district employees, including all those defined in Section 1-116 of this title, to strike or threaten to strike or otherwise close schools or interfere with school operations as a means of resolving differences with the board of education, the State Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Legislature or any other public official or public body. Any person engaging in a strike, shutdown or related activities shall be denied the full amount of his or her wages during the period of such violation, and if the person holds a certificate issued by the State Board of Education, such certificate shall be permanently revoked.
Stage a walkout against the local board or the state legislature or, well, anybody, and lose your teacher certificate. If you can't be a quiet, submissive teacher, well, then, you can't be a teacher at all.
Note, also, that this applies to boards of education, because some of those sonsabitches supported the teacher walkout of 2018 both vocally and by closing schools. So they can also shut the hell up.
I haven't found any quote from Russ discussing how he thinks this will affect Oklahoma's teacher shortage. Nor does this staunch defender of the Second Amendment said anything about how he feels this law fits in with the First Amendment. I'm no Constitutional scholar, but this seems a bit iffy to me. Heck, the courts say a politician can't block critics on Twitter, so Russ would be powerless an Oklahoma tweetstorm.
At this point, it's hard to tell if any legislators are willing to support Russ's baloney bill. And it's not the only stupid unconstitutional bill being proposed; Senator Mark Allen wants to make any group over 100 that wants to protest on the capitol grounds post a $50K bond. Both parties have already indicated that bill won't fly; let's hope similar sense prevails regarding Russ's boneheaded bill. At any rate, here are two more things I do know about Todd Russ.
First, this is apparently not his only education-related bill. Check out HB 2208. This bill would require every school district to have a secret ballot vote at least every five years to determine whether or not the union can keep representing teachers there or not.
Second, Todd Russ won his 2018 re-election bid over Dennis Dugger by about 500 votes-- 5,698 to 5,106. It seems as if Rep. Russ might be a tad vulnerable come next election cycle. That seems worth remembering.
P.S. He's one of three legislators to vote against an equal pay act for women in the state.