The way Oklahoma legislators treat public schools and teachers is wrong.
Some things just aren’t right.
You don’t need a pile of facts and studies to know it. You just know it.
The way Oklahoma legislators treat public schools and teachers is wrong. During elections, every candidate panders to the teacher voting blocs. Once they get themselves elected, that pandering swings to claims of “inefficiency” and “waste” and proposals of double-digit funding cuts. Then they further insult public education by pushing truly problematic charter schools and even vouchers to further damage schools that need more support, not less.
The State House of Representatives just passed a bill that would give teachers a $6,000 raise. It will take three years to get there, but the increase would be significant and could help the state turn the tide against losing good teachers and hiring uncertified and underqualified classroom fillers. That bill passed the House by a 92-7 margin. That sounds overwhelming.
It is also never going to happen. It is the most cynical vote possible.
You see, legislators just voted to raise teacher pay in the middle of a revenue failure where they can’t even fund current salaries. There is no plan to raise revenue to pay this bill. If it were to pass in its current form, local districts would be forced to come up with the money from already depleted budgets.
It is a budget buster that is in opposition to local control and merely causes more problems for struggling schools.
Even Oklahoma Senate Leader Mike Schultz (R-Altus) said what the House did this week was nothing but “false hope.”
"I think it's giving a lot of people a lot of false hope that we're going to find the money this year to do it," Sen. Schulz said. "I think it's a much better path to put things on the table that you can pay for, and not just put things on the table."
Teachers deserve better. They deserve better because even while they are being maligned for being ineffective and inefficient, they keep doing their jobs and doing them well.
I know it is hard on teachers who have a class where students range from honors students to those who struggle just to get by.
I know because I have one of both in my house and I have seen the incredible work teachers have done for both of my boys. Blake is a bright kid – he self-identifies as a nerd. It’s a badge of honor for him.
He had teachers in Kansas who pushed him to be better and try harder. When he got back to Oklahoma, he was too late to get into advanced classes, but a teacher noticed him in her class and she didn’t let the fact that it might be a hassle stop her from going the extra mile to help him restructure his schedule and get moved into advanced classes. That has made all the difference in his middle school years.
If Dawit hadn’t been delayed in language development for four years, he might be a nerd too. But when you understand pieces and parts of what is being said, it is hard to excel in school.
When this year began, he was miles from meeting the state benchmark for the reading test that third graders have to pass in order to become fourth graders. I’ll never forget the first conference with his teacher where she promised to give it all she had but cautioned us that Dawit wasn’t that close to the mark.
Luckily for us, she is also the teacher who works after school in a tutoring program in addition to other jobs she has to work after hours to make ends meet for her family.
No matter how hard it gets, her students come first. Just this week, Mr. Not Close to the Mark, became Mr. Aced the Test and blew away the requirements for third graders.
His reading level has improved almost three grade levels in just over a semester of hard work by him and his teacher.
So forgive me for getting a little angry when cynical politicians sit at their desks talking about what teachers should be doing and offering them false hope of a raise that will vanish due to a lack of available funding because they care more about tax cuts and credits than public education in the state.
Teachers deserve better. Public schools deserve better. The legislators could do better, but that would mean putting good policy ahead of partisanship.
We’ll soon see how badly these lawmakers really want to give teachers a raise.