SW Oklahoma educators unite
The Lawton Board of Education received a standing ovation after they approved a statement of support for educators if a walkout occurs on April 2, if the state Legislature does not meet the demands of the Oklahoma Education Association by April 1. The board's statement called "upon the Oklahoma State Legislature to swiftly and decisively pass legislation to restore funding to schools and to increase educators' pay."
On March 8, the OEA demanded that the lawmakers give educators a $6,000 raise this year with an added $2,000 more the next two years and restore critical funding to schools by April 1, or the OEA members will walk out until the Legislature complies. After 10 years of no raises and continued cuts to education, many Oklahoma educators, whether OEA members or not, have thrown down the gauntlet.
"As the Lawton Public Schools Board of Education and Administration, we support our teachers and will respect educators' decisions as they take a stand for our children," the statement read, adding that "We will do everything legally and ethically possible to support you, for your cause is our cause."
Citing many legislators who do cross party lines to seek solutions, the board's statement pointed out that "a small number of Oklahoma legislators have chosen to play politics at the expense of our children. We demand that you work with your colleagues to find a solution for the crisis facing our public schools. ... If you fail to act, teachers across the state will feel compelled to take drastic actions, and you will bear the responsibility."
Board member Dr. Lori Bridges said, "We just wanted to share our support for all the teachers and staff and make sure they understood we do support them. ... We wanted to take a stand as a group."
When all the people packed the auditorium, "it was a little intimidating at first," she said. "I think they all appreciated the statement that we were able to make."
That was an understatement when the statement was approved, not only was there a standing ovation, some educators had tears in their eyes.
"We are all here working for the kids, we're all trying to do the same thing," she said, explaining that the entire board helped draft the statement to make sure it was clear.
There are a lot of details that have to be worked out if there is a walkout teacher pay, student meals and more.
"We don't have any details on that yet," Bridges said, adding those discussions and planning will occur and a resolution made, but that the best outcome would be for it not to have to happen it is up to the Legislature.