Local lawmakers were in Tecumseh Friday to visit with area residents and educators as a statewide teacher walkout looms.

Local lawmakers were in Tecumseh Friday to visit with area residents and educators as a statewide teacher walkout looms.

State Rep. Josh Cockroft and state Sen. Jason Smalley offered insight into their own frustration with the legislature's inability to secure a working budget as they fielded questions and concerns from local teachers Friday during a legislative luncheon held at Tecumseh City Hall.

The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) has threatened that unless the Oklahoma State Legislature passes a bill resulting in a teacher pay raise by April 2, a teacher walkout would ensue, which could cause the closure of many school districts in Oklahoma. Many school districts in the area already are making preparations for such an event.

Cockroft and Smalley both expressed frustration with

lawmakers' inability to work out a solution up to this point.

Smalley noted lawmakers face a big hurdle due to the unwillingness of some at the state Capitol to compromise at all.

“The bottom line is, we have to find a fix,” Cockroft said. “We have to stop governing from crisis to crisis.”

He said he is optimistic about a plan that should be announced in the next several days, though he couldn't elaborate on it yet.

“I think it has a good shot,” he said.

Though Smalley said he, too, was optimistic, he was more guarded, noting there's a long journey ahead that could at any time cause the effort to fail, as many others have.

Smalley reminded the group that many state lawmakers are not making it their mission to oppose education.

“The extreme right and extreme left are making things difficult,” he said.

Both Cockroft and Smalley agreed that a change of culture needs to happen — not just in the legislature, but in Oklahoma communities, as well.

“In my eight years as a lawmaker, this year is the first one where I feel this pressure (from constituents),” Cockroft said. “That's not right; I should feel that way every year, and on every issue.”

Smalley added that Oklahomans need to be more informed and actively engaged in the process.

“It's a systematic issue,” he said. “I represent close to 80,000 constituents, but only about 20,000 vote.”

He said lawmakers consistently need to be held accountable by their constituents.

Cockroft acknowledged his generation — though passionate about various issues — does not often show up at the polls.

Smalley said he's not interested in what particular political affiliation a person is; that isn't his focus.

“I just want you involved,” he said.

State Rep. Dell Kerbs and state Sen. Ron Sharp were not at the gathering.

Ronnye Perry Sharp, Tecumseh chamber chair, acted as moderator for the Q-and-A discussion.

Watch for updates about the budget situation and the possible teacher walkout.