As many of you know, Oklahoma Education is facing an onslaught of budget cuts. I encourage you to write to your representative begging for resolution.
By no means am I a ‘political’ person, and I can honestly say that I have never written to a representative until now. However, my concerns have escalated so that though I feel like one voice in the sea of millions and rather insignificant, I felt an obligation to voice them. May I preface these concerns with acknowledging that I place blame no where. However, I do have expectations that a solution must be found and implemented quickly. As the Vice Chair of the Appropriations and Budget Committee, I ask for a moment of your time.
I am a school teacher. We are a group of people often over-looked in society until one of our party does wrong. The majority of us choose to teach because we love our students and have a genuine concern for them and their futures. As I began my career eight years ago, during an interview, I was asked, “Why would you want to teach? The pay is bad, you’re under-appreciated, and nothing is getting better.” Though I was floored at first by the candor, my answer surfaced easily, “I want to teach because I love kids, and they all need someone to love them and teach them about life.”
So is true for most of us in the teaching profession. It certainly isn’t for the pay; I could bring home my current $1,800 a month working fast food for a mere eight hours a day. With my college degrees, I could be promoted to manager and bring home far more. However, I choose to teach because I enjoy what I do despite the obstacles and circumstances teachers face daily in school.
I implore you to understand this because my concerns are irrelevant if teaching is merely a ‘job’ to me.
The recent Congressional budgets have continued to cut millions of dollars from education. Recently, I read that “public education in Oklahoma has experienced the deepest cuts of any state in the nation.” No doubt you are fully aware of this. It’s terribly sad… terribly embarrassing. We, as a state, fall below in so many aspects in comparison to others in the country. Should we not place a higher value on education? Education is the means by which our population learns to better themselves, to live beyond a menial existence. Poverty will continue to run rampant if priority is not placed upon education.
The state continues to purloin money from schools, but press teachers to adhere to higher standards and more rigorous teaching methods. Teachers are threatened with pay cuts if students do not do well on state-mandated tests. Students who sometimes have to complete homework by the lamp post on the street corner because there is no electricity at home. Students who have had to feed and dress their siblings before coming late themselves to first hour because their parents are strung out, hung over, or maybe still on the nightshift. We teachers are doing the very best with what we have, but our resources are continually fed upon by other “state departments”, and we are beginning to starve. Forgive me my frustration, but hunger does that to a person.
It’s as though we teachers have had our feet cut off, handed crutches, and expected to try-out for the Olympic Track Team. Now, these recent budget cuts remove a crutch, and still we are expected to run faster. It’s exhausting. It’s deflating. It’s impossible. Far worse, our students feel our desperation. For we want so much for them, but cannot possibly attain it under the current circumstances.
I do appreciate the efforts of those in Congress who have set education as an area of significance and priority above others. However, if I personally budgeted in such a manner as that which is done now, bankruptcy would be lurking outside the front door of my house. Priorities must aligned with society needs, and in an order that will circumvent problems in other areas. Education is of utmost importance, and it is there that answers will be found. These kids who sit in my classroom today, whose lives are impacted directly by decisions made by Congress, are the future of Oklahoma. Please, let them know that they are important, that their lives are worth investing in.
Thank you for your time,