TULSA - When the Oklahoma Education Association announced Tuesday that it had issued a deadline of April 23rd for legislators to adequately fund education and teacher pay, the phone calls and emails began pouring in from angry members.
“The members brought out the torches and pitchforks, and said ‘no, that’s not acceptable,’” Patti Ferguson-Palmer told KRMG Wednesday. “We want to go before testing starts, because we want to have that leverage on the legislature, that ‘hey, schools are missing out on testing.’”
Ferguson-Palmer is President of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association, the local affiliate of the OEA.
She admitted that while teachers and administrators across the state appear to be solidly in lock-step on the issue, she’s not sure what to expect when they rally at the Capitol on April 2nd.
“My fear is that people who are doing an awful lot of talking on social media won’t actually show up when it’s time for boots on the ground,” she said.
Alicia Priest, President of the OEA, told KRMG the reaction from members when the April 23rd deadline was announced was both “heartbreaking and inspiring.”
“The anger and frustration that our members - and non-members, anyone in the education community is feeling right now - is just, you know, it’s gut-wrenching,” she said. “We haven’t had teacher pay raises, or support professional pay raises since 2007-2008. There’s been more funding cuts to public education than any other state in the nation, 28 percent over that same time period. So teachers are fed up.”
And, she stresses, it’s not just about pay - it’s also very much about those deep cuts in spending that have affected classrooms across the state.
“My daughter’s class has one set of tattered and torn history textbooks for all seven of the classes that that teacher teaches,” she told KRMG. “They can’t check them out and take them home, because if they don’t bring them back, then there aren’t enough for the next class the next day.”
The OEA has outlined what educators want:
- A $10,000 raise over three years for teachers, with at least $5,000 coming the first year
- A raise of at least $5,000 for support staff, with a large portion of it to come the first year
- Money for operational costs for the school districts, to cover the cost of hiring more teachers, adding more books, and additional classroom materials
Priest said since teachers haven’t gotten a raise in so long, an immediate $6,000 raise would only catch them up to where they were ten years ago, adjusted for cost of living.
The OEA will announce its proposal to fund those demands in a press conference scheduled for 1:00 p.m. Thursday in Oklahoma City.