Oklahoma's Gov. Says Teachers Want More Than The State Can Afford


Students joined teachers in Oklahoma City Wednesday for a third day of protests demanding that state lawmakers increase funding for public schools after years of budget cuts.

Instead, educators and their supporters marched on the Capitol.

Carla Worley, a school counselor with Westville schools, was among hundreds of educators who waited in long lines outside in a bitter north wind.

"What makes me even more disappointed is that our legislature doesn't seem to care that we're at the bottom".

She and other colleagues left early Tuesday to make the almost four-hour drive to the state Capitol. "People are not happy, and we are going to see more of this!" This is one of the lowest per-pupil funding levels in the US. "I honestly think legislators expected us to show up Monday, thank them and go home", he said. As officials tried to maintain order, they disrupted proceedings further by chanting "Fund our schools!"

"And now they come into this House, and (they) want to act this way", he said.

The state House and Senate will convene on Friday to take up revenue-raising measures. Our kids follow their example and this is the example that's set. "I understand the frustration, but this is not the way to go about it". His office door was locked Tuesday afternoon, though a small crowd of educators had it surrounded.

The state's austerity axe delivers daily punishment to a struggling student population: The proportion of special needs and English-language-learner children has soared in Oklahoma in recent years, according to the OEA, and the majority of kids are so impoverished they need subsidized lunches.

Rob Miles, a middle-school history teacher in Norman Public Schools, scoffed at the characterizations of teachers as rowdy vandals causing chaos at the Capitol. "It's about doing the right thing".

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"My whole world is my students in my classes", he said.

Democratic lawmaker Collin Walke said teachers should keep up the pressure. This is not the civics lesson we've been teaching all these years. "Education is the best resource". Teachers in Oklahoma have not received a state raise in a decade.

Someone scrawled "Booo!" on paper hanging outside the door of state Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, that said he supported $5,000 raises.

The Republican-dominated Kentucky legislature says the pension reform bill was crafted to help the state cover a $41 billion shortfall in pension costs over the next 30 years. Thousands have thronged the Capitol for three straight days seeking more money for the classrooms.

The $50 million increase in funding from the state "will buy less than one textbook per student in Oklahoma", she said. The average compensation package of an Oklahoma teacher was $45,276 a year, according to the National Education Association, a figure that includes a high-priced health plan and other benefits.

In contrast, the northern Dallas suburbs, an hour or less south of the Oklahoma border, enjoy increased spending on schools as population growth in recent years, which has outpaced almost every area of the United States, has driven up local tax revenues.

Oklahoma City Public Schools, the largest school district in the state, posted Tuesday night that it heard that Oklahoma students would be rallying at the Capitol on Wednesday "to support their teachers".

"That was kind of a slap in the face", said Donita Goforth, an elementary art teacher from Grove, Oklahoma, who drove three-and-a-half hours to rally at the Capitol on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the state is contending with a dire teacher shortage, and has to grant a growing number of emergency certifications, filling classrooms with teachers who don't meet the normal training requirements.

Still, some question why teachers are continuing to stay off the job after lawmakers approved new money for schools and raises.

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