On March 31, teachers and supporters from across Oklahoma rallied at the state capitol in Oklahoma City to support higher funding for public schools and teacher’s salaries. The event, sponsored by the Oklahoma Education Coalition, drew an estimated 25,000 supporters.
Several school districts even canceled classes so teachers and students could attend the event.
I support the public school’s need for additional funding. My mother was a school teacher for nearly 22 years and I attended a small Oklahoma public school. Because of that, I’ve witnessed how frustrating it can be when activities are cut from a school’s curriculum and how low the standards are set by schools operating with little money. Due to lack of funds, most schools throughout the state have had to increase classroom sizes, reduce fine art programs and cut field trips.
Since our state’s public school salaries are so low, college graduates planning to teach in public education are more likely to work in other states rather than Oklahoma. Data collected from the National Center of Education Statistics concluded salaries in Oklahoma rank 49 compared to the rest of the country.
So, how will more money in schools help students?
If public schools are better funded, they can provide more up-to-date professional development courses for teachers. Learning new skills from these courses can help teachers become more effective educators.
With more funds, schools also can hire additional staff, which would reduce classroom size and cause teachers to engage students individually, which would drastically improve student learning.
Gov. Mary Fallin has stated she supports funding for public education. In 2013 she signed a bill, which included $120 million in new education money. However, due to the staggering almost 700,000 students currently enrolled in Oklahoma public schools, that amount of money isn’t enough to solve this kind of problem.
According to the Oklahoma Education Coalition, since 2009, funding for Oklahoma public schools has been cut by almost $200 million. Along with that, statewide growth of students has increased. That means less money is being spent on more students.
On April 2, House Bill 2642 passed the Senate Appropriations Committee by a vote of 20-3. The bill will now go to the full Senate before returning to the House for consideration.
This bill would take millions of dollars being used to fund road and bridge projects, and direct a portion of those funds to Oklahoma public schools during the next several years.
While this doesn’t solve Oklahoma’s public education crisis, it’s something which has a chance at giving students an education they deserve.
With proper financial backing, students throughout the state of Oklahoma can have a greater chance at earning an excellent education in public schools.
But until then, they’ll have to settle with what they have — a somewhat adequate learning experience taught by educators who can’t give students the education they deserve because they lack appropriate financial support.