Monday, April 23, 2018

In recent Oklahoma protest, lawmakers say rural and urban teachers wanted to increase funding in different ways

A teacher protesting in Oklahoma City on April 4, 2018.
(Agence France-Presse/Getty Images photo by J. Pat Carter)

"Even as they presented unified calls for increased funding, rural and urban educators had starkly different ideas of how to accomplish it, lawmakers said," Janelle Stecklein reports for the Enid News & Eagle in Oklahoma.

During the recent protests for education funding, educators from larger urban districts such as Tulsa and Oklahoma City said new revenue should come through consolidating rural school districts. Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, a retired teacher and vice chair of the Education Committee, said teachers wanted to reduce the number of districts from more than 500 to 70 or 77. Rural teachers wanted to preserve their school districts, which bring a sense of community to their towns.

Many rural teachers told Ginger Tinney, executive director of the Professional Oklahoma Educators Association, that they're often the highest-paid professionals in their towns, Stecklein reports. That pay disparity could make it hard for rural teachers to demand more money, Tinney said.

Rep. Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher, said rural teachers tended to be more appreciative of the state legislature's attempts to resolve teachers' demands, and said that although teachers support each other, "Sometimes I wonder whether or not those big organizations really speak for my smaller schools."

Oklahoma teachers staged a nine-day walkout after deeming new increases in educational funding insufficient. The state legislature had approved measures to pay teachers about $6,000 a year more and support staff $1,250 more, funding the raises with taxes on oil and gas production, fuel, online sales and tobacco. Teachers asked for a repeal of capital-gains tax exemptions to help finance a $10,000 raise for themselves, a $6,000 raise for support staff and $200 million in additional classroom funding. "After adjusting for inflation, spending per student has declined 28 percent per student in Oklahoma since the recession hit in 2007-08, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities," Bree Burkitt reports for The Arizona Republic. The walkout ended after teachers weren't able to secure the additional funding from the Republican-controlled legislature.

No comments: