“Better Plan” Update

It’s been 4 months, 22 days since Oklahomans decided buying booze in the grocery store is important and funding teacher raises isn’t.

The Greater OKC Chamber killed the bill by pumping over $900,000 into a convoluted ad campaign that misled the public. They claimed there would be a “better plan” for funding teacher pay, which will soon be 51st in the nation.

With this legislative session more than halfway finished, I felt it was time to update the public as to the progress towards a “better plan”.

Here’s what the legislature has accomplished in addressing low teacher pay:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coincidentally, it’s the same amount of lobbying the Greater OKC Chamber has done on behalf of teachers.

Go figure.

Tick Tock, OK.

In the Name of Love?

I can still see the look of indignation and astonishment spread across a certain state legislator’s face when I told him that I DON’T feel persecuted.  Not at all.  He was surprised to hear me—a middle class, white, Christian in the buckle of the Bible belt—say that in no way do I feel my religious liberties are threatened.  That same state legislator justified his disagreement with me by rattling off a story about an elementary student who wasn’t allowed to sing “God’s not Dead” at some school assembly.

 

I’ve got something to say to my Christian brothers and sisters, and some of you aren’t going to like it.  Friends, if your definition of “persecution” is a seven-year-old girl being unable to sing a less-than-adequate Christian pop song, then you can probably stop reading this post now because you and I will likely never be on the same page.  And I’ll say the same about being unable to force students to recite the Lord’s prayer, or listen to prayer or scripture over the school-wide intercom.

 

Brothers and Sisters, if you think God is deterred from being present in our lives because you don’t say a prayer from the press box at a football game, then you have a much narrower view of God than I do.  If you are deterred from carrying out our calling as followers of Jesus to LOVE and care for our neighbors (all of them) because you can’t hold an in-class Bible study, then you have a completely different idea of this calling than I do.

 

My God is powerful, but sometimes in subtle ways, at times undetectable by us.  My God can speak through my actions:  patience, kindness, passion, integrity, thoughtfulness, sympathy, radical hospitality, and joy.  My God doesn’t need me to thump my Bible to prove God is here.  To honor God we should care for others, and believe me, if you do that, God can speak for God’s self.

 

I bring this up because I’m growing weary of hearing state leaders justify useless, time-wasting, or even often unconstitutional legislation with the rhetoric they are somehow carrying out God’s will.  Call me crazy, but in a world where millions still live without clean water, in a country where half of those living in poverty are children, and in a state where 60% of kids need school for adequate nutrition, I don’t believe erecting the 10 Commandments on our capitol lawn is atop Jesus’s to-do list.  If we want to clang our cymbals or drum our noisy gong about how our steps are guided by our belief in Jesus, we better make sure that kind of declaration is true of our motives all the time.  Stop using Christian rhetoric when it suits our political ambition (banning abortions) and abandoning it when it doesn’t (eliminating programs that help poor mothers and children).  Stop using people’s willingness to answer God’s call to serve others as an adequate excuse to pay them poorly.

 

I’m working on the log in my own eye.  Have you even noticed the one in yours?

 

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

With spring break on the horizon, hunting season is upon us.  Specifically I mean job hunting for teachers.  Many districts have already begun enrollment for next year, and they’re gathering letters of intent from tenured teachers.  They’re also determining exactly how many teachers they need and how many they can afford to hire for the following year.  Job postings are going up.

In fact, job postings are going up in districts here and in surrounding states.

With every passing day in this legislative session, the odds of passing a plan to raise teacher pay get slimmer.  A few options have made it out of committee, but they all share one common flaw:  they don’t have revenue plans.  In other words, they don’t have a way to fund these plans.  It doesn’t take a rocket brain scientist to figure out what happens if you tell districts to pay teachers more without providing more revenue:  lay offs.  A teacher pay raise without a funding source is just another unfunded mandate from our legislature.  I’m not surprised at all.  I was only ever surprised that people voted down a fully-funded teacher pay plan because they thought our legislators would take care of the problem.

I said in November my family would likely look at moving out of Oklahoma next year, and that I would seek employment in a state that values education and educators more than Oklahoma does.  I don’t want to leave.  I like my school.  I love my students.  The parents have stepped up to invest in the program I’m directing and their children deserve a good teacher.  I like my neighborhood, and I love the life we live in Norman.

But I also don’t think it’s healthy to continue letting Oklahoma off the hook for the way it treats its educators and, quite frankly, other employees who provide necessary social services.  If we as teachers keep going above and beyond the call of duty despite being so poorly treated and compensated, then we are just enabling our abusers.  They will continue to do what they’ve always done, because they continue to get what they’ve always gotten:  educators willing to martyr themselves to the profession “for the sake of the children.”

There’s got to be a tipping point.  A point at which the well is dry, and we simply say, “no more!”  It’s easy for some people to vilify teachers for wanting our state to do the right thing.  Other states have found a way, and that’s one of the reasons we find ourselves 51st in teacher pay in the nation at the end of this year.  Some legislators continue to paint educators as greedy union thugs.

What’s so greedy about a college-educated professional wanting a salary that doesn’t qualify them for government subsidies?  What’s so greedy about wanting certified professionals in every classroom?  What’s so greedy about wanting our districts to attract the best and the brightest educators to fill vacancies, instead of begging anybody with a heartbeat to take a teaching position?

I don’t want to leave.  But the fact we are a state that pays its legislators a salary that is higher than that of an educator with a master’s degree and 10 years experience is absolutely heart-breaking.

And it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.