2018 will easily go down as the year of the public school teacher in Oklahoma. Due to the plight of our dilapidated schools, deplorable textbooks, teacher turnover, and race to the bottom in public education funding - Oklahomans have spoken - enough is enough!
Oklahoma voters were smart enough to see through the typical political shenanigans with State Questions 800 & 801, which did nothing for public education except give excuses to the real issue: the legislature’s neglect to fund our public schools.
Oklahomans who have seen a decade of cuts to public schools and broken promises year after year are tired of these political games. Eliminating many anti-public education incumbents in the primaries and electing over 22 new “teacher caucus” members to the state legislature gives one a sense of hope for a brighter future in Oklahoma.
Many legislators that are pro-public education were elected and re-elected in the 2018 Oklahoma mid-term. Educators, parents, and public school advocates showed up and voted in unprecedented waves this year and sent the clear message that our kids are not to be messed with and our schools are not for sale.
However, we realize this mess was not created overnight and that the momentum must continue as we hold the line and defend our good local public schools against privatization, high stakes testing, and funding cuts.
Just as Jesus made clear in the Gospels, “the worker is worthy of his wages” - it is evident that we have not delivered to our educators a wage worthy of their incredibly important work in years past.
In October 2017 Governor-elect Kevin Stitt said, “If we want to recruit great teachers, we have to pay competitive salaries. If we want to attract and retain great jobs, we’ve got to have great schools.”
Becoming a “top ten state” in public education seems like fantasy for a state that has consistently ranked last for years. However it is not inconceivable to move the metric in the right direction with simple and common sense education reforms for which we advocate:
STOP the movement to privatize public education - it is unproven, costly, and hurts our most vulnerable. Cooperation not competition leads to better results for kids.
BEGIN to fully fund our schools - restore our funding to at least the regional average so that we can provide a quality education. Incorporate funding for wraparound services like mental health services, feeding programs, literacy, and mentoring.
DROP unnecessary mandates - high stakes testing and a flawed A-F school grading system are distractions that don’t put us on the road to success.
ELEVATE the teaching profession in Oklahoma - offer competitive pay, educational opportunities, respect, and resources for our educators. Let’s end the teacher exodus.
We eagerly anticipate advocating for Oklahoma’s nearly 700,000 kids in public schools alongside our growing network of public education advocates and allies across all 77 counties.
May the hope of brighter days ahead be a reality as we work together for all Oklahoma kids. We are for you, educators!