OKLAHOMA CITY – More than 30,000 teachers, administrators, parents and students flooded the state capitol Monday morning, exceeding the expectations of the Oklahoma Education Association.
Linda Hampton, President of the Oklahoma Education Association said, “When you take over 30,000 people that take their own time off to come and spend a day at the capitol, standing for over 2 hours and listening and then taking that message inside and letting their voice be heard, you know they feel strongly. And so I think that sends a very very strong message to our legislature.”
Oklahoma Education Secretary, Robert Sommers said, “It really speaks volumes to how important public education is in the state of Oklahoma and nationwide.”
Hampton called the rally a success, saying Oklahomans conveyed the message to their legislature that they are fed up with being ranked 49th in teacher pay and money spent on students.
“I think that is such a sad message to say to any student that’s in school right now, that you are only valued in Oklahoma to the bottom level.”
Oklahoma spent $7,912 per student during the 2012-2013 school year.
One of our surrounding states, New Mexico, beat us by more than $3,000 spending $11,019 per student.
Texas spent $8,275, Arkansas $9,384, Kansas $9,689, Colorado $10,884 and Missouri $10,093.
“Enough is enough. 49th is not acceptable,” said Luann Luker, a 4th grade teacher from Sapulpa who attended the rally.
Even the youngest at the rally seemed to grasp what’s at stake.
Phoenix Perkins said, “Last year I had a class of 32 kids and it was kind of hard for the teachers to get around to all of us.”
Much of the day’s focus was on HB 2642 which calls for a guaranteed spending increase of $575 million toward education over the next 10 years.
“We think it’s so vital to the state that we’re willing to put the funding off the top,” said the bill’s author, Lee Denney.
So where would this money come from?
The Oklahoma Education Association says ending tax incentives for horizontal and deep well drilling would free up $300 million in potential state revenue.
They are also asking the legislature to keep the state’s franchise tax and the income tax.