The Luxuries of Keeping the Lights On

It’s the day after the House passed a bill that is one step forward for teachers – but it’s not enough. Before people start screaming about greedy teachers never being satisfied, let me explain.

We are asking for funding to be RESTORED. There are over 700,000 students in the state of Oklahoma, and the funding has not kept up with the increase in enrollment. In fact, it hasn’t increased at all. It has been cut. We need to restore education funding for things like textbooks that are from this decade and ceiling tiles that aren’t moldy and falling down, …and keeping the lights on. You know, luxuries…

We are asking for $200 million over three years with the first year at $75 million. Yesterday’s bill provides $33 million with no promise of additional funding in the coming years.

We are asking for ALL core state services to be funded, including health care, mental health, and public safety (among many others). I’m sure you’ve heard about all of the cutbacks and decline in services as a result of lack of funding. Why are teachers willing to die on this hill?

Healthcare affects our students when they can’t afford to go to the doctor. They miss large amounts of school, or they can’t concentrate while they’re there because they don’t feel well. Mental health is also a big concern in schools, and since counselors aren’t being allowed to be counselors anymore (testing, testing, 1, 2, 3…), mental health outside of school is kind of a BIG DEAL.

We are asking for state employees to get a $7,500 raise and for state agencies to be fully staffed. The cost would be $500 million over three years, with the year one pay raise being $2,500, for $71 million in the first year. This bill gives state employees $2,000 with no promise of additional funding in the coming years.

We are asking for retirees to get a cost-of-living increase of 5%. This doesn’t even need additional funding, since it can be dealt with through the pension system already in place. This bill makes absolutely no mention of COLA (correct me if I’m wrong…).

And finally, the teacher pay raise. We are asking for $10,000 over three years ($6,000 in the first year) and $5,000 for support professionals ($2,500 in the first year) for a total of $740 million over three years ($431 million in the first year). Even this would not be enough to get us where we need to be, but here we are.

This bill provides $1,250 for support personnel and what they call a $6,000 pay raise for certified. They call it that, but that’s not what it is. It will be $6,000 for some, $8,000 for others, and near $1,000 for many. It guarantees only the minimum state salary schedule, so districts that already pay more than that are under no obligation to pass those raises on – we might see the difference, but it won’t impact the rate of teachers leaving the state or education altogether. This bill also has no promise of additional funding in the coming years.

This bill IS a step in the right direction. But my prediction is that this will pass the Senate, and we will still walk out, and people will call us greedy and say we’re never satisfied. And this is exactly what they want. They want us to lose public support so we’ll be forced to back down. But this bill will give me $134 per month BEFORE taxes. I can’t back down.

We are not upping our asks. Our asks stay the same. We want the whole package. We want to be able to look our students in the eyes and tell them that our state lawmakers care about them and their futures and the future of this state. I would also like to look my daughter in the eyes and know that her future is going to be secure because I’m a teacher, and I trust that her schools will be funded, and she will have what she needs to succeed, and learn, and grow, and someday be a part of the new group of citizens leading this state into prosperity for its people.

Leave a Comment