Editorial: Make education a priority


By James Johnson

Oklahoma State Capitol, 22nd St. and Lincoln Boulevard Oklahoma City https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

Kourtney Kaufman, Managing Editor

Thousands of teachers across the state of Oklahoma flooded the state capitol on Monday, April 2 as a part of a statewide teacher walkout. This occurred after state legislators passed a bill approving approximately a six thousand dollar raise for teachers and a one thousand raise for support staff. Should the state’s educators say thank you and go home?

Not only have teachers not received a raise in ten years, education funding has faced severe cuts. Enrollment for K through 12 has jumped by 50,000 students while state general funding is down 180 million dollars according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute. In addition, state funding for education per student when adjusted for inflation is down almost 28 percent compared to a decade ago.

Oklahoma is among the lowest in the nation for teacher pay. Many teachers have left the profession or moved to other states simply to make ends meet. According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, the state had to issue over 1,800 emergency certifications this year alone to make up the deficit.

Teachers are not thanking legislators because over the last ten years they have seen the education budget plummet. They are not going home because they have seen textbooks and classroom supplies deteriorate, schools cut back on extracurriculars and classrooms become overcrowded. Teachers do not back down because one of their responsibilities is to advocate for their students as well as themselves.

Almost everyone has been influenced by a teacher in some way. Someone taught you to read and write. Someone helped equip you to succeed in college and the professional world. A teacher’s job is invaluable.

Investing in education means investing in the future. It means that kids will be equipped to succeed when they graduate high school. Good education creates productive members of society.

Legislators must stop attempting to put a band aid on a problem that has lasted over ten years. A problem that has taken this long to create will not be fixed in a short time either, but the state legislature must find real, sustainable sources of revenue for education. Slashing the education budget is not working anymore and teachers are fed up.

Call and email your legislators. Tell them that you support teachers and that you care about education in this state.