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We’ve held it together as long as we possibly can with the Band-Aids we can afford Featured

Last modified on Wednesday, 14 March 2018 04:45
Written by  Tuesday, 13 March 2018 18:39
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Oklahoma teachers are seeking a pay raise and better funded schools. If they don’t get what they are asking for, teachers statewide will walk out on April 2.


The Southeast Oklahoma Teacher Walkout, held a very informative meeting on Tuesday evening at the Donald W Reynolds Center in Poteau, where our teachers throughout the county could voice concerns and get some questions answered.


Speakers and many attendees at the meeting agreed that the walkout is for the kids and to let legislators know that Now is the time. Teacher throughout the state are just not going to take it anymore. So, if Lawmakers cannot come up with adequate funding for education, then on Monday, April 2, schools in many districts throughout the state will be closed indefinitely until Oklahoma state leaders create a permanent sustainable plan to pay educators the professional salaries they deserve. In the words of OEA President Alicia Priest, a public school Spanish teacher from Yukon, “Enough is enough.”


The forum, was moderated by Scott Parks, Superintendent from Howe Public Schools and representatives from both (OEA) Oklahoma Education Association and (POE) Professional Oklahoma Educators, along with two former legislators, James Lockhart, and Kenneth Corn, offered some great insight as to what teachers should do.


Carrie Alexander, a teacher at Heavener Public School, stood before the crowd of 300 to 350 people and read the letter she wrote in response to a Facebook comment someone had made about Oklahoma Teachers and if they really cared for their students.


Here is Alexander’s letter in full.
To whom it may concern,
I saw where someone posted a comment the other day about Oklahoma teachers and how if they cared about their students, they wouldn’t go on strike. They wouldn’t walkout.
I didn’t take it well. In fact, this is how I took it.
I took it to heart.
I took it to heart because as public school teachers in Oklahoma we have stood by the past ten years and watched as our students have received less and less support from our state for their education. We’ve watched as those we have elected to represent us have in essence told everyone else they are more important than our students. We have tried our best to make up for this short change by purchasing out of our own pockets. We have become experts in digital coupon clipping, made ourselves thrifty Pinterest queens and kings, and we have exhausted every community resource available to us. We have picked up countless side jobs peddling everything from energy patches and jewelry, to candles and makeup in an effort to put back in our pockets what the state has forced us to dig out. We have spent our twenty minute lunch breaks trying to figure out which tape will do the better job of holding a twenty year old text book together. We’ve spent hours trying to unclog copy machines because the budgeted paper quality is so low it’s only good for about 15 copies before jamming. We’ve done this while drapes and shutters with a $30,000 price tag were being hung in a single break room at our state Capitol. Break rooms, that for teachers were considered luxuries and left when the funding that prevented overcrowding did.
I took the statement that teachers who choose to strike must not care to heart because it hit me personally.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve purchased clothes and supplies for my students. How many times I’ve paid out of my pocket for field trips, snacks, and for my students to attend fun days at school. I’ve taken food to my students’ door steps and purchased toys at Christmas for fear they wouldn’t have any. I’ve rallied with other teachers to help round up items for students after their homes burnt. I’ve spent more than one or two evenings driving around looking for a child who was either missing or had run away. I have even found myself over Christmas break once at the feed store buying puppy formula and bottles for one of my students who was heartbroken because her dog died after having a litter of pups and her mom couldn’t afford to bottle feed them. Once, I searched hours for a student’s stolen bicycle only to end up purchasing him a brand new one to help restore some of his faith in humanity. I’m not telling you these things to boast or for any personal glory. I’m just telling you SOME of what WE do. How dare anyone say we don’t CARE about OUR students. We DO care and that’s why we are trying to save this system. Our public education system in the state of Oklahoma is broken and we are begging for it to be fixed. We’ve held it together as long as we possibly can with the bandaids we can afford. By walking out we are admitting that we can’t do it anymore and we are asking our state for help. We are begging others to please see and value our students.

Please understand with us that we MUST invest in our students by restoring critical funding. Overcrowded classrooms are not acceptable. Twenty-year-old textbooks that are being held together by duct tape and super glue are not acceptable for Oklahoma’s students. Teachers should not feel pressured to go to work when they are sick because there isn’t money to hire substitutes. Adding anywhere from 7 to 20 more students to your coworkers already full classroom makes learning nearly impossible for the day and adds strife among already tired and strained teachers. Teachers should be handed basic supplies like staples, paper clips, file folders, and dry erase markers in August and not be made to feel like they should be purchasing these things out of their own pockets. Students should once again be given materials for hands on science instead of being handed worksheets because they are cheaper than the consumables. Students who seldom leave our county should be afforded the opportunity to visit nearby museums and places of history rather than be told fuel is too expensive.

And finally, to the guy who told my friend she should just go pump gas if it payed more. We didn’t choose careers in education for the money. But we are at a point now where the underfunding has caused a crisis. We see this crisis from a point of view that you do not. We see the danger of not having fresh teachers coming on board. We see the danger of having good teachers leave. We see the dangers of our students doing without because of critical cuts.

I knew when I graduated high school I could make a lot more in the health field. I could have been a nurse, dental hygienist, physical therapist or just about anything and made more money with the same investment of time in college. I chose education because I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to inspire. I wanted to help mold the future. I still do. I STILL choose to be in my classroom, but I WILL NOT sit by any longer while our state refuses to offer the help we deserve in order to do that. I’ll stay in Oklahoma. I’ll stay because I have roots here now. I’ll stay because I want my children to grow up in my small town. I am a minority though. More and more will leave if it does not change. We will fill more positions with emergency certifications and lone applicants. I heard someone not very long ago ask “How did he get that job?” The reply was, “He was the only applicant.” That’s not who we want to trust our future to. You can figure my hourly wage up all you want. You can tell me I get summers off and only work until three o’clock. I’ll tell you I am responsible for our state’s most valuable resources day In and day out. I am in the position to have more impact on the future of our state than any other job you name. My success or failure at my job will have an impact on the number of Oklahomans who end up on welfare, in prison, or on drugs. The way I handle the bullying that occurred at recess will directly impact the mental health of student who will make a decision whether or not to cut themselves, commit suicide, or act out violently toward his peers. My success or failure at my job will impact whether or not a student seeks higher education and a better paying job. The success or failure of my job will have a direct impact on Oklahoma and it is time that Oklahoma acknowledges such. Contrary to popular belief, our most valuable resource is not OIL and GAS. It is our students.

We understand hard times. We have stood as bodyguards shielding our students from harm as best we could during these hard times, but enough is enough. We are bottom in teacher pay and per pupil spending. It’s time to fix it Oklahoma. The time is NOW.

Sincerely,
Carrie Alexander
Heavener Elementary School

 

OEA gave information on what they want law makers to do: 1. Pay raises for education employees, 2. Full funding for education, 3. Cost of living adjustment for retirees, and 4. Funding for core state services. President Priest said “these goals are the minimum we will be willing to go back into the classrooms for.” See photo below for specifics about these goals.

 

p0e2

Advice from former Senator Kenneth Corn-Mass “emails don't work. Personal emails are good, personal letters are better, but flooding their offices with phone calls is the most effective as well as flooding the capitol building.”
The speakers also emphasized the importance of conducting oneself in a professional, respectable manner when making contact with a senator or representative.

 

Hodgen teacher Denise Collins posted on her Facebook page “We were given a lot of good information tonight! Please support our teachers, our schools, our support professionals, and state workers! The OK Senate and House of Reps have to do their jobs better! They are the reason we are in this mess! They have to fund EDUCATION! Thanks to OEA, POE, POE’s Legal Team, Kenneth Corn and James Lockhart for coming to help us put a plan together and answer a lot of Q&A. #teacherslovetheirstudents”


"If you (teachers) won't stand up for your own profession...the profession you have devoted your life to...no one else will." -- Kenneth Ray Corn

David Deaton

Digital Editor at Oklahoma Welcome

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