How the Chamber Killed Teacher Raises

 

The cat is officially out of the bag, friends.  You can now see who gave money and how much they gave to Greater OKC Chamber’s successful effort to rob teachers of a fully-funded $5000 pay raise.  Oklahoma’s teacher pay is now 50th in the nation, and Oklahoma’s teachers are paid at 77% the national average.  To view the entire disclosure, head right over here:  odb-donorsfile-feb-05-2-33-56-pm

 

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to see Chesapeake and Devon gave $20,000 each toward the endeavor.  Although I can imagine the hurt and anger felt by the few thousand people those companies laid off.  They couldn’t pay their employees, but they had money to help make sure Oklahoma teacher salaries would remain 50th in the nation.  And despite having recently emerged from chapter 11 bankruptcy, Sandridge Energy managed to contribute $10,000 to the cause.

 

You can add Love’s Travel Company to the list of places I won’t be frequenting.  They gave $40,000 to ODB.  I try not to give my business to any entity that so clearly puts profit ahead of people.  I don’t care how “clean” their bathrooms are.

 

 

Other donations came from individuals.  I noticed one name on the list lives across the street from me, and just down the street from the Norman elementary where my daughter attended kindergarten.  I wonder how he can drive by that place and not think about the fact he cost those teachers $5000.

 

Clay Bennett was rumored to have been one of the big proponents of Oklahoma Deserves Better, and gave $20,000 to the coalition.  Bennett’s net worth is around 400 million, thanks in no small part to his NBA success in Oklahoma City with the Thunder.

 

Another individual donor is the head of the charity, “Fields and Futures”, which works to build athletic facilities for some metro schools.  Tim McLaughlin allowed Edmond North students to raise $350,000 for his charity.  A few months later, he donated $10,000 to deny their teachers a raise.  The defeat of 779 will certainly exacerbate the teacher shortage by expediting the exodus of teachers from our state.  Essentially, Mr. McLaughlin repaid the charity of those benevolent students by jeopardizing the quality of their education.  For somebody who works specifically to provide athletic opportunities for disadvantaged kids to donate to a cause that hurt their teachers is an especially low blow.  I guess for him, when it comes to helping underserved urban students break the cycle of poverty, football fields > teachers.

 

 

The Greater OKC Chamber not only spearheaded the effort, they gave more than $200,000 in cash and in-kind donations.  That number doubles to over 400K if you also count donations from FOKC (Forward Oklahoma City), a chamber-led initiative for economic development in the city.  All-in-all, they solicited nearly $900,000 from Oklahoma businesses and citizens, and spent nearly all of it in the last 10 days leading up to the election, primarily on misleading ads like this one:

 

People who bought the slush fund lie, failed to scrutinize the full language of the bill:

“The common school districts shall use eighty-six and one-third percent (86.33%) of the additional funds provided to them under this Article XIII-C to increase teacher salaries as required by Section 4 of this Article, and to otherwise address and prevent teacher and certified instructional staff shortages in the manner most suited to local district circumstances and needs…”  (emphasis is my own)

In other words, the money was for teacher pay, not just teacher raises.  It was stipulated that districts would increase all teacher salaries by at least $5000.  But liberty was given to allow districts to use some of the resulting revenue to address other issues with teacher pay.  It would have allowed some districts to rehire positions they were forced to eliminate in a budget crisis.  It would have allowed them to add teachers to their work force to alleviate large class sizes.  It would have allowed them to offer stipends for hard to fill positions, like STEM and Special Education.  And the language explicitly prohibited any of the money going towards superintendent salaries.

 

I’m willing to wager the people at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce actually knew this.  They just bet on the fact that most Oklahomans didn’t know it, and that most wouldn’t even bother to read the bill at all.  They bet big (over $800,000) and they won big.

 

And I think that’s what bothers me most.  They didn’t officially form their coalition until after October 1st so they could keep their donor lists hidden until their first financial disclosure was due in January.  The ads were misleading at best, and flat-out false at worst.  They waited until the last minute so proponents of the measure wouldn’t have time to do damage control.  It was all very underhanded and calculated.  And it appeared suddenly, and with great precision, dropped a bomb on a measure that was polling at over 60% just a month before the election, which leads me to believe it had been in the works for a long time before the organization was “official”.

And now, the GOKC Chamber says teacher pay is their number one educational priority (as opposed to their top priority in general).file-feb-05-2-47-31-pm

 

My question for the Greater OKC Chamber is simple:

How much money do you intend to spend to lobby on behalf of teachers?

 

At this point, words are meaningless.  Making teacher pay their top educational legislative priority is nothing but lip service as far as I’m concerned.  We’ve been there before.  We’ve heard for years that a raise is in the works, that legislators have filed this bill or that bill, and it never comes to fruition.  The GOKC Chamber proved they were willing to put serious money behind their efforts.  Will they reach out to these donors to solicit donations for their “better plan” implementation?  Do they plan to run an ad campaign to rally the people behind our educators?  Do they plan to spend money championing teacher pay?  Have they hired lobbyists to wine and dine legislators on our behalf?  Are they working with a design firm on yard signs and bumper stickers?  How much advertising time has been purchased with local radio and television stations to promote a “better plan” for teacher pay raises, and for increasing per pupil spending for the 700,000 students in our financially crippled public schools?

They solicited and spent almost a million dollars to deny my family a $5,000 raise, and simultaneously endangered the quality of education for 700,000 school children by contributing to the mass exodus of our teachers.

If I had to guess how much money they throw into a campaign for their “better plan”, my guess is somewhere between $0 and $0.

But by all means, Greater OKC Chamber, make a liar out of me.  Put your money where your mouth is.  I dare you.

Better Find Someone to Blame

Lately, I’ve heard some complaints from our legislators that they don’t like the tone we’re using when questioning their policies and motives.

 

The most recent occurred in the comments of a Facebook post on Senator Rob Standridge’s page.  Standridge made so many comments that disturbed and upset me, I’m not even sure what to address first.  You might want to check it out for yourself.

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This query, among many others, elicited no response from the Senator.

 

Senator Standridge wants to perform an audit on every school district in Oklahoma.  I can’t imagine why he wants to pay money for information that all districts provide already.  I can only assume it’s because he believes he can solve our budget issues when he discovers how wasteful we educators are with our ever-shrinking budget.

 

The conversation took a few turns as citizens posed several questions of the Senator, most of which went unanswered.  In fact, to look at the comments, you would think the Senator only wished to validate the statements of those who agree with him, while painting those skeptical of his plans as “Republican bashers” (although Standridge himself brought up partisan politics more than the rest of the commenters combined).  Two people, myself included, who used the word “Republican” in a post, began by stating we are (or at least were) Republicans, and asking for clarification as to why our party has strayed so far from responsible fiscal policy.

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Both those statements are true.  We are 50th in teacher salary, and I CAN make 20K more in any one of a number of TX districts.  I’ve checked.

 

 

 

Several commenters asked the Senator to state his position in favor of or against the low production taxes, particularly for oil and gas industries, that have essentially cost us hundreds of millions in lost tax revenue.  Senator Standridge did not address those questions or concerns.  Not even once.  He did continue to scold his constituents for not offering solutions, even though more than one person suggested capitalizing on our natural resources and taxing oil and gas at the going regional rate.

 

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Senator Standridge wishes more Oklahomans thought medicaid recipients are losers.  A vast majority of medicaid recipient are children.

He did take the time to validate and applaud a citizen who called Oklahomans on Soonercare, “losers”.  Which was surprising, considering his position that the care and education of our children is a “moral imperative”, and 2/3 of Soonercare recipients are children.  He implies educating our children is a “moral imperative”, therefore teachers should require no more than the satisfaction of fulfilling that obligation.  I guess that’s where the “moral imperative” ends, because those slacker children are bleeding us dry with their healthcare.

 

 

Standridge goes on to scold teachers for their passion, and for asking, in most instances, well-articulated questions.  He then makes a few passive aggressive comments questioning whether we are fit to work with children.  It seems the Senator confused “vitriol” with “dissent”, and those who openly challenge him are no longer qualified to educate our youth.file-jan-19-8-01-39-pm

 

Here’s the thing:

 

I for one (and I think I can safely say I speak for a lot of other people here) am sick and tired of excuses.  I’m fed up with the blame game.  Our legislators can’t understand why we get so upset when they try to “help” educators by accusing us of wasteful spending, taking our flexible benefit allowance, or even robbing our retirement.  Can’t you see we’re trying to give you that raise?! This is what you said you wanted, you ungrateful, lazy leeches!

 

Please.  It seems some legislators want to “help”, but only on their own terms and without input from educators.  And even if they’re robbing Peter to pay Paul (taking our FBA in exchange for a raise), we should thank our lucky stars and throw them a tickertape parade.

 

Stop expecting me to thank you for kicking me in the shins because it could have been a punch in the gut.

 

Nobody is willing to step up and admit their irresponsible fiscal policy of recent years is to blame for our budget failure, and we need to get serious about how to fix it.  They’re still convinced we can budget our way out of this hole, and after 8 years of “fat-trimming”, we simply can’t anymore.

 

But in the meantime, don’t engage with those in power who have already invented their own truth.  It doesn’t matter how many facts you give them, how many charts you show them, or how much anecdotal evidence you offer.  Your questions will go unanswered, and instead you will be scolded for daring to challenge the misguided fallacies upon which some legislators justify their harmful fiscal policy.

Once More into the Fray

It’s officially 2017, and I am standing—or writing, rather—on the precipice of a new school semester.  I had a wonderful break.  A restful break.  Christmas break is sort of like “comp time” for teachers—a chance to catch up at home and recharge in exchange for all the extra hours and days we work above and beyond our contracted time.  I caught up on sleep, saw family, spent extra time with my children.  I did a few projects around the house, played piano for a local church whose usual accompanist was on vacation.  And yes, I still managed not to spend any money in OKC.  I almost avoided politics altogether.

 

I say almost because I met with my state senator, Rob Standridge, over the break.  Several months ago, I called him out on social media for his failure to respond to five separate emails I sent over the course of 2 separate legislative sessions.  A few days later, a response to one of those emails landed in my inbox…from his assistant.  After a weeks-long game of e-mail tag, we finally managed to nail down a time when the Senator could meet with me.

 

Senator Standridge comes off as a nice enough guy.  I mean, he did sit at Panera for nearly an hour-and-a-half the day before Christmas Eve discussing education and other political issues with me.

 

But I walked away from that meeting having confirmed what I suspected:  he really doesn’t understand the plight of teachers, and he will not admit the correlation between poverty and academic success.  These two shortcomings in combination make me leery that he would ever side with public education.

 

As for Oklahoma teacher salaries, which are 50th in the nation, Standridge admitted that teachers need a pay raise.  He also said he would not author any legislation for teacher pay raises, and that he is skeptical it will even be possible when we’re staring down the barrel of a probably BILLION DOLLAR SHORTFALL.

 

Three days after our meeting, Standridge touted his support for vouchers and ESAs, a measure that could cost financially-crippled public schools MILLIONS of dollars.

When I brought up the lack of accountability for such measures, including the lack of academic and fiscal oversight for private and for-profit charters to which public schools must submit, he agreed it’s a problem.

 

Like I said.  He seems like a decent guy.  I just happen to disagree with virtually his entire stance concerning education.

 

I’m curious how many teachers left Oklahoma public education at the semester’s end.  A friend of mine confided that her sons lost BOTH their 5th grade teachers at the semester.  And that was in an upper-middle-class, suburban district.  I know we lost at least one at our feeder middle-school in my district.  I spent some time over the break updating my resume, and contacting my references to prepare for possible applications out of state.

 

But for now, I’m still here.  And I plan to keep fighting.  I intend to keep attempting to educate our legislators, and to call them out when their actions serve an elite few and ignore the vulnerable masses.  We’ve been told to brace for several fights:  against vouchers, to keep teachers insured, for funding, and to limit the damage of unfair and short-sighted school evaluation systems that don’t paint a complete picture.

 

Some of you voted down a teacher pay raise in November, and promised us you would nag your legislators to address this and other problems themselves in session.  It’s time for you to make good on that promise.  We may fail.  We probably will.  Or at most, delay the inevitable.  But 700,000 children, and 40,000 educators in Oklahoma deserve a champion.

Will you be one?

My One-Woman Boycott of OKC

 

 

It’s been three days since 60% of Oklahomans told teachers and kids we aren’t worth a penny.  We’re out of school today, and I’m still incredibly angry with the people of this state.

 

Spare me the comments that start out, “I’m all for teachers, but…”.  I think it’s a safe assumption that most of you looking for a “better” way will find yourselves too busy to visit the Capitol or nag your legislators when the session begins in February.  The few of you who follow up with the promise will soon realize your mistake when you find out what we’ve been up against for the past eight years.62864930-368-k339992

 

And now I see efforts on social media to try to make something positive out of this.  People are asking what they can do to make teachers feel appreciated.

 

Well, you know…a $5000 raise would have been a good start.

 

Folks, no amount of thank you notes, school supply drives, sonic gift cards, or 50% off Chili’s coupons are going to make us feel better.  (As if I could afford a nice place like Chili’s on my paltry teacher’s salary.)  We can’t send our kids to college, or even to piano lessons, solely on the satisfaction of a job well done.  Last time I checked, they don’t accept “fulfillment of a calling” as payment for my groceries.  Only cash, check, or charge.

 

We’ve been going about this all wrong.

 

We’ve been trying to play the game with integrity.  By promoting facts.  By trying to educate the general public on complicated issues like school finance.  By showcasing our teachers and celebrating our schools.

 

Well, I don’t know about you, friends, but I’m fresh out of rainbows and unicorns.  I’m in the mood for some good ole’ fashion come-uppance.

 

We know there was a huge push to convince Oklahomans to vote NO on 779 in the last two weeks leading up to the election.  They flooded the airwaves on radio and television with misleading commercials full of half-truths and outright inaccuracies concerning 779.  They deliberately misled the public, essentially tricking them into seeing a distorted view of the language in 779.   And not 48 hours after the election, the “Oklahoma Deserves Better” coalition, the anti-779 campaign, dismantled their Facebook page, and haven’t been heard from since.  So much for that “better” plan they never had any intention of pursuing (as if one existed at all).  “Oklahoma Deserves Better”, was smart about it, too.  They waited until the end of the campaign to form their organization officially because they won’t have to disclose their financial information to the ethics commission until Jan. 1st, thereby protecting their donors.

 

Well, I don’t plan to wait that long.

 

We know this push came largely out of OKC.  Sure, plenty of other municipalities voiced their opposition, feeling that one penny would be enough to convince people not to buy stuff and things anymore.  (insert eye roll emoji here).  Because asking people to pay an additional dollar for every hundred they spend is much more detrimental to business than a crumbling education system. But regardless of declarations by various chambers of commerce, the people with the money are the ones who moved the needle.  Are we really supposed to think they organized, raised funds, and produced all those commercials in just two weeks?  I don’t think so.  A number of reliable sources have led me to believe that most of the money was raised by and/or came from Oklahoma City.  And the entire effort was largely backed and promoted by the Greater OKC Chamber, no doubt to protect their interests in promoting their own penny sales tax, MAPS.

 

So, I plan to boycott OKC.

 

I pledge to do my best not to spend any money in OKC city limits.  I won’t buy a single sack of groceries, or a drop of gasoline there.  I won’t fill a single prescription there.  Not a single haircut, oil change, or gym membership.  I won’t buy a single Christmas present at Penn Square Mall, or any other retailer.  I don’t care how many triple-doubles Westbrook throws up, I won’t attend a single Thunder event, or even purchase one item of merchandise (especially since it is rumored Clay Bennett was one of the masterminds behind anti-779 propaganda).  I will not eat in Bricktown.  I won’t visit the museums, the civic center, or the movie theaters.  I will not attend one concert there, nor will I buy one ounce of full-strength beer or wine.  Not in a bar, a convenience store, or a liquor store.

 

They don’t think I’m worth a penny?  Fine.  I won’t spend a cent there either.

 

Not.  One.  Penny.

 

Will OKC miss the tax revenue from my paltry teacher pay?  No.  But at least it’s good for a half-hearted laugh to imagine me, a one-woman protest, picketing Thunder games with signs that read, “Clay Bennett HATES TEACHERS”.

 

Nah.  It would take more than just me to make this a real movement.

 

And right now, the only things inspiring me are these:

Oklahoma Legislator pay:  15th in the nation
Oklahoma Teacher pay:  50th in the nation

My Oklahoma Teacher Salary with a master’s and 10 years’ experience:  $36, 500.

My potential salary moving to any of the several dozen districts in the Dallas Metroplex:  $55,000 plus.

NO SQ790

I’m going to switch gears for a few minutes and talk about something that, at first glance, seems unrelated to education.

 

I am a pastor’s wife.  I am a cradle Methodist.  I am a Christian.

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My family pausing for a photo before Christmas Eve service, 2014

And I stand AGAINST state question 790.

 

If you’re unfamiliar with SQ790, it is a question to repeal the “Blaine Amendment”.  If SQ790 passes, it would strike language from our constitution that expressly prohibits public money from being spent for religious purposes.

 

Proponents of SQ790 claim it is about restoring the Ten Commandments monument to the state capitol.  Currently, it resides at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, less than a mile from the Capitol lawn.

 

But I’m afraid it’s about so much more than that.  Changing our constitution to allow public tax dollars to be spent for religious purposes would bring about two consequences that disturb me.  First of all, it would make us vulnerable to costly litigation as we would be (once again) attempting to establish a law at the state level that is clearly unconstitutional at the national level.  freedom-of-religion-400wSecondly, this would open the door to vouchers, a long-time agenda of right-wing conservatives that allows education funding to be siphoned off to for-profit charter and private schools, further crippling already financially strapped public schools.

 

Proponents of SQ790 claim it is an attempt to protect religious liberty:

“Like the ‘Jim Crow’ laws that promoted segregation, the Blaine Amendment is a discriminatory provision in our Constitution that flies in the face of many of the Oklahoma values we cherish – love of neighbor, reverence for humanity and respect for the right to express religious freedom.”

~U.S. Senator James Lankford and Lt. Governor of Oklahoma Todd Lamb

 

Friends, if you are comparing the “persecution” of American Christians in the buckle of the Bible Belt to the persecution of African Americans in pre-1964 America (and even today), then you are clearly delusional.  If you assign equal weight to being unable to blast a prayer over the loudspeaker before Friday night football to black citizens being denied basic civil rights and murdered, then you need to seriously consider the true definition of “persecution”.

 

In what way does the absence of a ten commandments monument from the capitol keep you from practicing its tenets?

 

Furthermore, if you believe in God and think God is not present in public schools because we don’t force students to pray or attend chapel, then you need to take a good long look at what kids and teachers are doing in our schools.

 

Last year, the students at my school raised over $50,000 for a community family battling childhood cancer.

 

The second week of this school year, the students raised over $6000 for the Susan G. Komen foundation.  And perhaps more profound, they honored our principal with a standing ovation at that assembly, which happened to be on the day she completed her final radiation treatment for breast cancer.

 

Students in our leadership class spend time tutoring at our surrounding elementary schools.  Students in our Key Club and National Honor Society complete community service projects.  My students show great compassion for those who are different from them.  They celebrate each other.  They comfort each other.  They challenge each other.  They affirm each other.

 

If you are a Christian, then you already know Christ’s greatest commandment:  Love God and love your neighbor.  And by committing to the latter, we are fulfilling the former.  If we are practicing radical hospitality and love, God is here.  No “Bible-thumping” necessary.  In fact, you don’t have to open a Bible or even quote a scripture to fulfill God’s calling to love and serve your fellow man.  Do you not believe if you go out of your way to help the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the needy that God will show up and speak for God’s self?

 

God is very much alive in the spirit of service and love that exists in our schools today.  I firmly believe it.

 

Which makes me question the true motives of those who stand behind SQ790.  At best, it’s unnecessary.  We already have religious liberty.  And at worst, it’s a smokescreen for some other agenda, which I don’t trust.

 

#electoklaed

Just two weeks from tonight, we’ll be watching election results roll in.

 

Teachers will be watching with bated breath, wondering if the night will end with perusing houses in Plano on Zillow.

 

The good news is, support for SQ779 has been steady and consistent.  Despite the barrage of anti-public ed fodder from our friends at the Oklahoman Editorial Board (who published no less than SEVEN articles against 779 last summer—seriously…I stopped counting), the people of Oklahoma seem to be on the same page:  it’s not an ideal solution, but our legislators left us no choice.  We’re hemorrhaging teachers to every surrounding state.  And that warrants emergency measures.

 

I could be wrong, or perhaps buried under the work of operating a secondary vocal music program, but I’m surprised at the lack of campaigning against 779 by its detractors. I’m not an optimist by any stretch of the imagination (shocking, eh?), but I take that as a good sign.  I expected to be bombarded with propaganda somehow painting teachers as greedy moochers and miraculously linking passage of 779 to the opening of the hellmouth. I think those against 779 realize it’s a lost cause.  Turns out Oklahomans aren’t okay with mortgaging their children’s futures while the state financial situation continues to spiral downward.

 

Don’t make a liar out of me Oklahomans.

 

But despite the previous 222 words, this post is about a different item on your ballot.  One that could affect infinitely more change for students and teachers in Oklahoma—one way or the other—than passing SQ779.  I’m talking about your vote for state legislators.

 

After years of pleading with legislators to listen to the concerns of constituents instead of bending to the will of out-of-state interests, we’ve finally taken matters into our own hands.  This election saw a slew of declarations for candidacy unlike anything we’ve seen since term limits went into effect over a decade ago.  And many of those candidates are not career politicians.  In fact, many tout their willingness to put aside callings to other professions while reluctantly pursuing a position in office that will allow them to address the issues plaguing our state.  Because many of the previous classes of legislators were unwilling to do so.

 

And many are educators.

 

I know after years of legislative abuse, teachers are already preparing to go on the defensive once again before another legislative session begins.  Murmurs of further cuts to education are trickling through conversations.  Rumors abound about the return of the voucher wolves.

 

Let’s talk about vouchers for a second.  In recent years, our legislators have adopted other euphemisms like “Education Savings Accounts” (ESAs) and “school choice”, but the motive is the same:  pick the pocket of public schools under the guise of helping less fortunate kids, while truly seeking to subsidize private school for the wealthy ones.

 

Even with the support of multiple senior legislators, shenanigans had to ensue in order for a voucher bill to even advance out of committee.  Like removing an opposing legislator from the committee, and never replacing him.  Or the speaker and president pro-temp exercising their voting privilege on that particular committee meeting.  And despite having a large Republican majority in both chambers, the voucher bill still died because they couldn’t rally the votes for it.

 

Folks, MANY of the voucher wolves (Hickman, Jolley, Nelson, Kern, Denney) will NOT be at the capitol next year.  If they couldn’t get it done last year with all those people in place, imagine how difficult we can make it for them next session if we just vote the right people to the capitol.

 

Right now there are several races where educators are fighting tooth and nail for a seat at the table.  Personally, I’d love to see a few victories in these seats:

 

Lloyd Snow in SD37

Kimberly Fobbs SD33

John Waldron SD39

Mickey Dollens in HD93

and Shawn Sheehan in SD15 (my own district)

 

And any of these apples.apples-in-a-basket

 

In many of these races, the candidates are going blind into the election because they’re on a shoestring budget, unable to afford the polling.  Reward their effort by showing up in two weeks to cast your vote for them.  They need us to show them some love! And everybody loves a good Cinderella story, even if this madness is November and not March.

 

Seriously, folks.  I am willing to bet if we #electoklaed to a few key seats in the legislature, vouchers (and other anti-public education measures) will be DEAD before the session even begins.  Imagine what it would be like to spend a legislative session actually advocating for good legislation instead of constantly on the defensive of the bad stuff.

 

Many state elections are decided by just a few hundred, or even a handful of votes.  How many teachers do you know in your district?  We could swing any election we want to, if the mood strikes us.  And all we have to do is carve out a few minutes to show up to our polling place on November 8th.  And I’ll bet that scares the pants off some people.

 

Plus it would send a clear message to those in office:  you work for Oklahomans, not for out-of-state interests seeking to capitalize on our kids.

 

You serve at our pleasure.

 

 

There Must Be Some Kind of Way outta Here…

It’s been nearly two months since I’ve posted anything.

 

Notice I said “posted”, not “written”.  I’ve started several posts, at least four.  None of them came to fruition.  The idea didn’t “gel”, or I wasn’t in the mood to solicit arguments where the more controversial ideas were concerned.

 

A number of minor, albeit annoying, issues have beset my family over the past months.  Medical issues, family issues, money issues, new house issues, gophers-in-the-yard issues, what-is-that-smell-and-where-is-it-coming-from issues, and a number of other things that come along with moving to a “new” 50-year-old home.

 

I’m tired, folks.

 

In the education world, I notice morale is low.  Many “money-saving” steps were taken concerning personnel in all districts, but those jobs still have to be done by somebody.  That makes for a lot of frazzled people trying to wear multiple hats, some of which may be a poor fit.  Class sizes are up, course offerings are down.  Allocated funds for activities are gone, and kids and parents are expected to make up the difference.  Even “essentials” like textbooks and curriculum are now a luxury.

 

And yet, teachers are putting on their happy faces because two things are still true:

  1. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
  2. None of this is the kids’ fault.

 

“It’s not the kids…”

 

You don’t know how many times a colleague has said those words to me in the past few months—how many times I’ve said them to myself—in conversations about how frustrating it is to work in public education right now.  I still find joy in working with kids.  It still energizes me.  It still fulfills me.  It still keeps me on my toes.  I still look forward to walking in my classroom each day.  My students continue to surprise me, in good ways.  Teaching is still a rollercoaster.  I still love teaching.  I just wish I could spend more time loving it, and less time wondering if I can afford it.  Wondering what it’s costing my family, and not just financially.

 

Because, after all, “it’s not the kids” that have me wondering what the future holds for me.  It’s the voters in our state.

 

I have this feeling I can’t shake that many teachers are watching, waiting to see what happens in November before committing to one more year in Oklahoma.  Will we elect some legislators who pledge to offer viable solutions to solving our budget woes, our teacher crisis, and the poor work climate for educators in our state?  Will we pass SQ779, to raise teacher pay and hopefully stem the flow of educators from Oklahoma to every surrounding state…or any other state in the country save for one?

 

The problems facing schools, facing educators, and ultimately students have been mounting for years.  Many of us grow weary of playing the part of the Lorax.  We saw this coming.  We warned.  We yelled.  We pleaded.  We finally realized that, while many were oblivious, others saw it coming, too, and wanted it to happen.  We’re at an important crossroads.  We’re at a critical tipping point.

 

As we see the conversations heat up for elections in November, particularly for teacher candidates running for office and for SQ779, I hope we will ask ourselves some important questions.  Who’s to blame for this debacle?  Who will benefit from perpetuating the teacher shortage?  Who stands to profit from privatization of public schools?  Who stands to gain from continuing down this path of destroying public education?

 

Because…it’s not the kids.