List of pro-education candidates below.
OKLAHOMA CITY (12 July 2016) – Another Oklahoma teacher is pondering a move to another state because of shabby treatment by the Legislature.
“It isn’t just the money,” said Alicia Blair, a sixth-grade special-education teacher in the Mid-Del school district. “I feel like the legislators here hate public education. We have some allies at the State Capitol, but mostly I believe they hate us.”
The Republican majority that dominates the Oklahoma Legislature is seemingly hostile to public education and is constantly promoting charter schools, vouchers and education savings accounts, all of which siphon funds away from public schools.
Legislative appropriations for public school districts have been cut repeatedly in recent years. The allocation for the State Department of Education for Fiscal Year 2015-16 was cut by $73 million from its original appropriation.
The $2.426 billion appropriation for public schools next year is $105 million less than it was seven years ago – while during that time frame enrollment increased by 43,500 students, to an average daily membership of 688,274 this school year.
The entire $33 million earmarked for new textbooks next year was eliminated, at a time when many schools are using books that are in tatters and held together with tape. Oklahoma is in the sixth year of moratoriums on purchasing new instructional materials, making minimum library/media expenditures, and maximum class sizes.
The Legislature also slashed $38 million from the activities fund. That encompasses myriad things such as funding for the Teachers Retirement System, alternative education programs, pre-kindergarten initiatives, and SoonerStart, an intervention program for infants and toddlers with disabilities and developmental delays.
Mrs. Blair, 33, was graduated from St. Gregory’s University at Shawnee with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education; is earning a master’s of teaching, with a double focus on multiple subjects (elementary and special education) from the University of Southern California; and has been a classroom teacher for four years.
Her reward for that education and experience? “I owe $30,000 in student loans and take home less than $2,000 a month,” she said. “My check would be about $2,200, but after taxes and retirement are withheld, $200 is taken out for my daughter’s insurance and $56 goes to my NEA dues.” Her paycheck would be even lower except that she receives a 5% bump because she’s a special-ed teacher.
“I’m not afraid to say what my salary is,” she said. “I do an important job. The state is who should be ashamed.”
Public school teachers in Oklahoma have not received a state pay raise in eight years.
“I am very lucky to have a husband who makes a good living,” Mrs. Blair said. “He owns a locksmith business and a web design/maintenance company.” He works from their home in Edmond, which enables the couple to keep their daycare expenses manageable.
“I have never had regrets about going into teaching,” Mrs. Blair said. “It really is a passion. I love what I do. I love kids and I really like to learn. I work in the same district from which I graduated high school. Most of the teachers and principals here are my former teachers, and they were a big influence in my life. Mid-Del is like my family.”
Nevertheless, the Blair family is considering relocating to another state where the weather is cooler and the legislature is friendlier. “My husband can work from anywhere, so it really would make more sense for us to leave,” Mrs. Blair said. “I worry about the policies the legislators here push. I worry for my students and my own child.”
Source for above content: Oklahoma House of Representatives Democratic Caucus