by Kathy Seibold, Executive Director of ImpactTulsa
This very day.
Oklahoma sits at a crossroads.
Will Oklahoma make education funding a priority? The result of this historic teacher walkout will give us that answer.
First, some good steps: The Oklahoma Legislature created positive momentum this session with the teacher raise that was written into law. The Oklahoma State Department of Education took great and powerful measures in the spring of 2017 when it unveiled new standards and assessments linked to college and career readiness.
With these changes, we are now measuring students against a rigorous national benchmark aligned with the National Assessment of Educational Progress and beginning to pay teachers what they deserve. But, we are not there yet.
Continuing to support the education walkout is critical to ensure we have a long-term impact. This walkout is difficult for families to manage, and it disrupts learning in the short-term.
However, that must be contrasted with the potential reward to our state from proper funding of education: a state that can compete on a national and international scale for talent recruitment and retention.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, in school districts that substantially increased educational spending, students from low-income households were significantly more likely to graduate high school, earn livable wages and avoid poverty in adulthood.
The increases were significant. For students who spent all 12 years in a district with increased spending, graduation rates rose by 23 percent. These same students were 20 percent less likely to live in poverty after high school. Their wages were 25 percent higher than those from districts without the funding changes.
After years of dramatic funding cuts, the drastic measure of a teacher walkout is what was necessary to ensure consistent funding for Oklahoma’s children and educational professionals. If teachers continued to stay silent, cuts would certainly not stop and most likely would continue.
Oklahoma now spends $1 billion less on public schools than it did just a decade ago. One in five districts has gone to a four-day school week. How can we possibly accept this as a long-term solution?
It’s time to fund education at a level that will ensure our competitiveness across the nation and world.
If we continue to ignore the educational funding needs of this state, our children will not only suffer in the short term, our state will suffer greatly in the long term. We will continue to lose qualified teachers and have classroom sizes that make individualized instruction and hands-on learning impossible.
The time is now.
We stand with the teachers. We demand full funding.
We demand better for Oklahoma and its children.
Original article published in the Tulsa World on April 8, 2018