- Associated Press - Thursday, April 2, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - School districts will no longer be able to deduct union dues from Oklahoma teachers’ paychecks under a bill Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law on Thursday despite objections from educators who say they’re being unfairly targeted.

Because the bill only applies to associations that collectively bargain on behalf of its members, it affects just two organizations - the Oklahoma Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

“Governor Fallin supports Oklahoma teachers and their right to collectively bargain. They will still be able to do that,” said Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz. “This bill simply helps get the state out of the business of collecting union dues.”

But Westmoore High School teacher Elise Robillard, president of The Education Association of Moore, said Fallin’s signing of the bill suggests she doesn’t support public educators.

“Apparently the governor doesn’t mind sticking a finger in our eye,” Robillard said. “She didn’t bother to show up at the teacher rally this week. She clearly doesn’t know how hard it is to be a teacher in this state.”

More than 7,000 teachers rallied at the Capitol on Monday seeking a boost in funding for public schools and more emphasis on recruiting and retaining teachers, who are among the lowest paid in the nation. The average starting salary for a teacher in Oklahoma is about $31,000.

The bill divided Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature, passing the House 59-39 and the Senate 27-16.

The bill, which takes effect Nov. 1, will not prevent anyone from joining a union, and teachers, administrators and school support personnel can still pay membership dues with a personal credit card or draft from a bank account.

The bill also does not affect dozens of other payroll deductions that state employees can select, such as money for college savings accounts, other employee associations that don’t collectively bargain and subscriptions to Oklahoma Today magazine.

The president of OEA, the state’s largest teacher organization with 35,000 members, said she is convinced the bill will serve as a rallying cry for teachers and strengthen the association’s power.

“This issue has always been about attempting to silence the voices of education employees,” OEA President Linda Hampton said in a statement. “In signing this bill, Governor Fallin and the Legislature believe they have found a way to stifle those voices. But they could not be more mistaken.

“We will continue to speak out, strongly and frequently, as advocates for Oklahoma’s public schools and students.”

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Online:

House Bill 1749: https://bit.ly/1Dtu9gV

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