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Oklahoma teachers prepare for walkout

An+Oklahoma+teacher+holds+a+sign+at+a+2014+protest+stating%2C+%22Don%27t+make+me+move+to+Texas.%22+Teachers+in+Texas+have+significantly+larger+salaries+than+teachers+in+Oklahoma.
An Oklahoma teacher holds a sign at a 2014 protest stating,

An Oklahoma teacher holds a sign at a 2014 protest stating, "Don't make me move to Texas." Teachers in Texas have significantly larger salaries than teachers in Oklahoma.

An Oklahoma teacher holds a sign at a 2014 protest stating, "Don't make me move to Texas." Teachers in Texas have significantly larger salaries than teachers in Oklahoma.

Asheley Jantz, Memorial Managing Editor

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As Oklahoma teachers prepare to walkout of schools on April 2, students, parents, and school districts are waiting anxiously to see whether the legislature will increase their pay. West Virginia teachers accomplished a 5% raise after their 9 day strike which is fueling hope for Oklahoma teachers that are ranked as some of the lowest paid teachers in the entire country.

“You know, there are many factors that really contribute to where we are today. But where we are is that we have had to endure 28 percent cuts in our funding formula for education in the last decade,” state superintendent of public instruction Joy Hofmeister said. “Yet we have grown by around 50,000 additional students. So when you have those kinds of conditions and instability, you have teachers who remain who are weary, who are worn thin and are ready to walk to the Capitol.”

Edmond Public Schools superintendent, Brett Towne, recently advocated for an increase in teacher pay at a board meeting on March 5.   

Edmond Schools supports its teachers in efforts to secure a state pay increase. We have been with you for years working on advocacy, communication and efforts to increase salaries and school funding, and we will continue to work and support those efforts to increase school employee salaries and support of schools,” Towne said.

The state of education in Oklahoma is struggling so significantly because the legislature is guided by the idea of keeping taxes low so that consumers have more disposable income and large companies have an incentive to move there; however this has resulted in large cuts to public programs like education.

“The State of Oklahoma and school districts need to provide competitive compensation for teachers. Without adequate compensation which incentivizes the teaching career path and allows teachers to earn a living to stay in the profession, Oklahoma will continue to lose teachers to other states, have teachers leave the profession early or not even consider a teaching career,” Towne said.

Many teachers have shared their personal stories of living with their incredibly low teaching wages on social media platforms. Christy Nieves, a senior English teacher and Newspaper advisor at Edmond Memorial High School posted her reason for walking out on Facebook in hopes of gaining support for the strike.  

“I want a livable wage, that is not to much to ask for. A few years ago my husband and I met with a financial advisor, he told us we made $5 above the poverty line,” Nieves said.

The Edmond Public Schools district has 6 reserved snow days that are available to be used for the strike if the school closes; however parents, teachers and students are concerned about what will happen if those 6 days are all used. The district could add minutes to the school days or add a day for every day that the strike continues after those 6 days are used up, but that could cause conflicts with summer plans, Advancement Placement testing or spring athletic competitions.

Although there is a large amount of uncertainty and chaos surrounding the teacher walkout, most parents and students are supporting the teachers with as much passion as possible.

“I will be marching at the state capital on April 2 because I believe that teachers are so crucial to society and it is incredibly important that they earn fair compensation for all of the hard work they do,” Edmond Memorial senior Nawal Saya said.

Around 87% of teachers in the Edmond Public Schools district stated that they would not be showing up to school on April 2 according to a poll that was conducted. If schools are forced to close the legislation will be more inclined to provide a bill that gives teachers a respectable raise quickly.

Contact Asheley Jantz at [email protected]

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