OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Teachers, students and public education supporters gathered at the Capitol to share their thoughts about the state of education in Oklahoma and to talk with lawmakers constructive legislation.
In recent weeks, three different education plans have been proposed between the House, Senate and the Governor.
The House and Senate plans offer a minimum raise of $2,500 for teachers across-the-board.
Governor Stitt offered his proposal during the State of the State address, with raises being offered based on merit.
“We need a pay raise,” said Derrick Miller, a teacher from Duncan Public Schools. “Inflation’s going up.”
He argues that $2,500 will not cover the increased costs the country has experienced due to inflation.
With surrounding states like Arkansas proposing $50,000 minimums for their teachers, Miller said teacher in Oklahoma question whether $2,500 is enough.
“They want to know why those states can come up with the money, but Oklahoma cannot,” said Miller.
More money in teacher’s pockets was not the only topic discussed Monday.
“We have a desperate need for school counselors,” said Betty Collins, teacher with Union Public Schools. “Students are recovering still from the effects of COVID, and that secondary trauma is being felt by both teachers and administrators.”
Collins has been in the classroom for 15 years and currently teaches 8th grade U.S. History.
Another main concern is about respect for teachers. She argued that educators are trained to handle what content is appropriate for all students.
“That’s part of our job as professionals in that in the classroom,” said Collins. “We know what is appropriate subject matter for the age group that we’re teaching, and we know what is an appropriate age, what is not age appropriate.”
The veteran educator also talked about her relationship with parents, saying talks are about students’ outcomes not indoctrination.
“Most parents are just really concerned about their students and not so much concerned about the wider world of education that’s going on out there,” said Collins.
Parents like Kate Snoddy made a point to visit the Capitol to talk about her main concern: the threat of public schools losing federal funding.
“I am just a parent of a severely autistic child, and she is in the public school system, and I am terrified of them stopping federal funding that will end her classes,” said Snoddy.
The threat of pulling all federal funds was made by State Superintendent Ryan Walters during his campaign and is currently in the legislature with SB 863.
Along with merit teacher pay raises, Governor Kevin Stitt added Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs, to his education plan. Most people recognize ESAs as vouchers. The Governor, and other voucher proponents, have argued that vouchers give parents more choice to send their kids to better schools.
Snoddy said she never supported vouchers because the public school her daughter attends has been the best option.
“There is an autism school here in the city that I have done,” said Snoddy. “It was not a good fit for my daughter. She is thriving more in public school.”
For students like Cruz and Marliegh Merrell, Shawnee Public Schools gets them prepared for college and a career.
“They put a lot of work into preparing students for life after high school,” said Marliegh.
Marliegh graduated and is now at OU.
Her brother, Cruz, is still in high school and is going through ICAP, an internship program that orients students towards a career.
“The internship is really helping me figure out what I like, what I don’t like, and careers, and it’s just giving me a really good experience for college,” said Cruz.