teachers

About exactly a year ago we brought you the story of Shawn Sheehan, Oklahoma's 2016 Teacher of the Year.

At the time, he and about 40 other educators were running for office in the state, wanting to make a change because, as Sheehan puts it, lawmakers weren't prioritizing education. Funding for schools in the state has been cut tremendously over the past decade and teachers in Oklahoma are some of the lowest paid in the country.

okcps.org

The Oklahoma City Public School Board of Education meeting was packed with angry community members on Monday night.

Many people in the crowd felt the district was being dishonest about a proposal to close a local elementary school.

Last Wednesday, OKCPS administrators released information about their proposal to close North Highlands Elementary in northeast Oklahoma City, just five days before the school board was set to vote on it.

Emily Wendler / KOSU

The promise of a teacher pay raise seemed real this year, like lawmakers were actually going to get it done. But, they didn’t. And so, once again, some teachers are packing their bags in search of more money elsewhere. However, one teacher is asking them to stay in Oklahoma, and keep fighting.

This year’s legislative session began with high hopes of a teacher pay raise.

Governor Mary Fallin stressed the need for one in her February State of the State speech, and lawmakers put multiple pay raise plans on the table.

In 1999, a Minnesota educator was removed from teaching biology, after school administrators learned he was focusing on creationism, and not evolution.

A bill now heading to the Oklahoma House floor would protect teachers from such backlash, if they chose to do something similar.

The House General Government Oversight and Accountability Committee voted 4-3 Thursday to send the Senate-passed bill to the House floor for a vote.

The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday approved several education related bills, including measures that address teacher pay, teacher recruitment, and the reduction of administrative costs, among other issues. These bills will now go to the House for consideration. 

 

Here's a list of the education-related bills passed out of the Senate on Wednesday:

Emily Wendler / KOSU

Oklahoma City Public Schools administrators invited legislators and community leaders to "teach for a day." The district hoped lawmakers would have a better understanding of a teacher's responsibilities after spending a day in their shoes.

Oklahoma Senator David Holt spent part of his day reading with first graders at Quail Creek Elementary School. Other lawmakers and community leaders went to other schools in the district.

Holt says he knows quite a bit about the school because his kids go there, but on Tuesday, he learned a lot more.

Betsy DeVos, who is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, has given millions in campaign contributions to politicians across the country.

Some of that fiscal muscle trickled into Oklahoma during the last election cycle through a pro-school-choice “Super PAC” that, notably, opposed so-called “teachers’ caucus” candidates in many instances. (The caucus arose out of many educators’ frustration over what they view as low education funding levels and teacher pay.)

Emily Wendler / KOSU

Oklahoma public schools are on the ropes after years of budget cuts.  Four-day school weeks and more. We’ll take it as a big case study and and look at Donald Trump’s new education secretary.

Emily Wendler / KOSU

Oklahoma’s teacher shortage may get worse before it gets better. State Question 779, which some hailed as a solution to Oklahoma’s education funding woes, failed on Election Day. Many of the teachers running for office were also defeated. These losses have left some Oklahoma educators feeling hopeless.

Shawna Mott-Wright, the vice president of the Tulsa Public Schools teacher's union, said State Question 779 was the straw that broke the camel's back.

"Teachers are heartbroken," she said. 

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, KOSU's Michael Cross talks with ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel and Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill about the fate of teacher raises and funding for education after Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly defeated a state question to provide a penny sales tax to fund those things.

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