BARTLESVILLE, Okla. – It is no secret that Oklahoma teachers are some of the lowest paid in the country.
For years, teachers have been asking Oklahoma lawmakers to find a way to fund a pay raise for educators across the state.
When another legislative session came to a close without a teacher pay raise, many educators decided to leave the classroom or the Sooner State for better pay.
For teachers who decided to stay in Oklahoma, many are being forced to pay for supplies out of their own pockets.
Teresa Danks, a third grade teacher in Tulsa, turned to panhandling to help raise money for school supplies.
“It all adds up week after week, and month after month,” she said. “So it’s a huge need.”
Now, the plight by teachers has even caught the attention of Oklahoma children.
Laney Daniels, a fourth grader in Bartlesville, decided to write a letter to lawmakers at the Capitol to remind them of the importance of teachers.
“You’re in the spot because you got a good education because of the teachers. If you hadn’t had an education, you wouldn’t have a job,” Daniels wrote.
In Bartlesville, the district was forced to fill vacant positions with 12 emergency certified teachers. In fact, the superintendent told KJRH that they have hired teachers they wouldn’t have even interviewed years ago because of the teacher shortage.
Even at school board meetings, students are speaking up for teacher pay.
“We should give our teachers a pay raise because they haven’t had a pay raise in over 10 years. Remember, I’m the student and I’m having to stand up for my teachers when they should have been heard at first,” said Brock Gonzales, a student at Madison Middle School.
Now, an online petition encouraging a teacher walk-out is gaining traction.
“Nobody wants to see this but, like I said before, teachers are tired of being hushed. They’re tired of their voices not being heard, and they’re tired of empty promises,” Danks said. “Drastic measures are sometimes what it comes to.”
Danks said, for many teachers, the final straw was the defeat of the Step Up Oklahoma plan in the legislature last week.