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Hostages – Oklahoma’s Youth

February 15, 2014

This article was published under the title “Legislators must back teachers for education to kep improving” in the Duncan OK Banner, February 12, 2014.

It seems we live in a vacuum where nothing changes in the way that legislators look at teachers and the

education process.  What they must realize is that 99%+ of the teachers are dedicated to their profession.  Yet, teachers do not receive support from Oklahoma City, either through legislators or the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Our schools need current textbooks. They must have means of accessing current information and training for the new technology fields of future job markets. We cannot prepare a student for education past high school if we are not providing the support needed to reach that goal.

Why Governor Fallin and the majority of Oklahoma Legislators feel that leaving the school funding level below 2008 levels (while student enrollments continue to grow) is beyond understanding. Not being an educator myself, I needed to look elsewhere for informed sources. The obvious choice was people in education. They have first hand knowledge of our educational problems created by the inactions of our politicians. Among those resources is the blog okeducationtruths. Allow me to quote from a recent letter this educator submitted to members of both the Oklahoma Senate Education Committee and the Oklahoma House Common Education Committee. 

Refill the funding formula. Last year, the Legislature had more money to appropriate than at any other time in state history. Even so, state support for public education has not been restored to the level of FY 2008. Schools should be funded at FY2008 level plus consideration for growth in enrollment and a cost of living adjustment!

Fully fund reforms. Three years ago, Superintendent Barresi told superintendents that the reform she was pushing could be implemented without new funding. Now she is asking for more than 26 million in new money to fund them. Common Core, TLE, RSA, and ACE take money to implement well. They also take time. School districts can get students where they need to be with both money and time. Most critical is Reading Sufficiency. At current funding levels, many schools have to decide between tutoring during the school year or having summer programs. The support schools do provide span less time and may not include all the grades principles would like to serve. Also consider that we keep increasing what we spend on testing. If the legislature reduces the amount it requires testing, this expense could be lessened.

Plan long-term for raises.

Supporting a teacher raise of $2000 by adjusting the state minimum salary and dedicating funding to the formula would be a start. Don’t stop there. Be bold. Think five years down the road and ask yourself where you want to see public education in the future. While state voters rejected a plan to trigger automatic teacher salary increases a few years back, they would probably support raises for teachers if the legislature phased them in over time. We don’t know what Texas, Kansas, and Arkansas will be paying their teachers in five years. There’s a lot we don’t know. We can be certain, however, that we will continue to see shortages in the profession without taking strong action. A one-time $2000 stipend that only a few districts would be able to afford is not a game-changer.

Over the next few weeks, you will likely hear from many Oklahomans who share my concerns. I’ve never seen so many well-informed parents become active voices, hoping to change the narrative and direction of public education. You’ll hear from this writer personally. You’ll hear from my friends and neighbors who have children in school.

We all want the same thing – good schools for our children. Providing them simply takes good people with good ideas. And yes, our educators must have full support of Oklahoma’s legislature.

Educators thank you for your time and your service to the students of our state.”

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