In the midst of a massive protest by Oklahoma teachers who seek to remedy underfunded public schools, state Rep. Kevin McDugle, a Republican, initially bashed their actions and said they set a bad example for students.
As a result, he now faces an electoral challenge from Cyndi Ralston, a public school teacher who announced Tuesday that she will run for his 12th District seat as a Democrat.
In a Facebook post announcing her decision, Ralston said that McDugle “released a video this morning in which he disrespected and denigrated teachers and administrators who have come to the capitol to protest the legislature’s wholly inadequate support for education.”
She went on to say, in comments first reported by the Tulsa World, “If Kevin McDugle won’t fight for teachers and students, then I will.”
McDugle’s comments, issued in a now-deleted Facebook Live video, demonstrated his frustration with the teachers protesting at the capitol.
The lawmaker said that he voted for previous education-funding measures but the recent walkout changed his mind.
“I’m not voting for another stinking measure when they’re acting the way they’re acting,” McDugle said. “You’re losing support of people who supported you all year long. Now you’re going to come here and act like this after you got a raise?”
He later apologized for the tirade, saying, “I will continue to vote for teachers.”
Still, it was enough to motivate Ralston to challenge him.
Comments from the state’s Republican Gov. Mary Fallin did nothing to mollify the teachers’ sentiment either. While she signed a bill on Tuesday providing a modest raise to some school staff, Fallin was somewhat dismissive of their more urgent requests.
“Teachers want more,” Fallin told CBS. “But it’s kind of like having a teenage kid that wants a better car.”
Oklahoma’s massive teacher movement follows a nine-day strike in West Virginia, which ended in an agreement to raise wages. Teachers in Kentucky have similarly mobilized following the passage of a pension bill that would target some teacher benefits.