Teachers, students and parents rallied at the state Capitol in Oklahoma for the second year in a row in an effort to bring change to the public education system.
Organizers for the event were pleased with the success last year, which they said helped to implement critical changes to the system, including a new state superintendent and the end to the Common Core standards. They hope to see similar results this year.
“Why are we here today? Well we’re here today because not all of the legislators really, truly, get it yet,” said Tulsa Public School Superintendent Keith Ballard.
This year, supporters would like to see an increase in teacher salaries across the state, which are currently about $3,200 below the regional average. After adjusting for cost of living, teachers in the state rank 39th in the country in terms of salary, according to the governor’s office, reports Ed Doney for KFOR. This could account for the teacher shortage of about 1,000 throughout Oklahoma.
“We want to get quality teachers in our building to help make all of our kids successful and the only way to do that is to get the pay increase,” Michelle Albanys, Assistant Principal of Bodine said.
Educators are also fighting for a reduction in testing in order to gain more instruction time and an increased focus on learning.
“We put too much pressure on our students and we need to think of them first,” Tina Floyd, Bridgecreek Elementary said.
Oklahoma PTA President Jeffery Corbett publicly announced the governor’s phone number at the rally and encouraged attendees to all call at once in order to make their voices heard. Rep. Scott Inman agreed with the move, saying that a $600 million revenue shortfall was not a reason not to increase education funding, adding that educating children in the state should take precedence over tax cuts and incentives for new businesses to the area.
However, Rep. Ann Coody disagrees. “Of course he said that (about ending tax cuts),” Coody said. “But it would not create more money for education.”
She went on to say that while she is not happy with funding levels for education, she did note that the legislature gave $100 million more to education than they did last year.
After the rally, Governor Mary Fallin released a statement, saying:
“I am proud to have worked to put over $160 million of new money into K-12 education over the last few years, and I agree we can do more,” Fallin said. “With a $611 million budget shortfall this year, many agencies are going to take cuts. I am committed, however, to protecting K-12 education from those cuts as much as possible.”