OKLAHOMA CITY —
Teachers flocked by the busload to the Oklahoma Capitol on Monday to call on lawmakers to increase public school funding and educator salaries.
Thousands of teachers showed up to the rally at the Capitol building, including some who visited lawmakers’ offices to deliver letters from their districts and to make personal appeals for more financial support for public education.
According to the Oklahoma Education Coalition, which helped organize the rally, public schools are operating on $200 million less in funding and with 1,500 fewer teachers than in 2008, despite an increase of about 40,000 students. It says Oklahoma’s state funding for public education has faced greater per pupil cuts than any other state.
“It’s minimizing our teachers,” Annette Cain, a second grade teacher at Deer Creek, said as she stood in a Capitol hallway jammed with teachers waiting to visit state senators.
Cain said support for public education has diminished although lawmakers have ratcheted up the requirements for student academic achievement. About 678,000 students are enrolled in Oklahoma’s public schools this year.
“The demands are increasing,” said Cain, who took a personal day off to attend the rally. “We’re OK with increasing standards, but you’ve got to have the funding to do it.”
Tiffani Patrick, a writing coach at Deer Creek, said her workload has increased because her district does not have the financial resources to hire additional teachers.
“I’m split between two schools instead of one school,” Patrick said.
Cain said teachers are urging lawmakers to restore public education funding to at least levels it reached prior to the Great Recession, when revenue shortfalls forced spending cuts to education and other public services.
Gov. Mary Fallin has said she supports more funding for public education. Last year she signed a budget bill that included $120 million in new education money. She’s proposed another $50 million funding increase.