Sunday March 25, 2018

Ramifications of teacher strike are far-reaching

We stand with teachers, as do so many in the state. It is a tragic situation that teachers in Oklahoma City Public Schools and across most of the state won’t be in classrooms on April 2 and for an indefinite time period. This is getting real, and the ramifications are far-reaching. Besides the obvious fact that students won’t be learning, there are countless other issues that school districts are navigating as they prepare for this historic event.

Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education member Jace Kirk, along with the OKCPS leadership team, key personnel and the Foundation, have been meeting regularly since the school board voted to support its teachers in the walkout. Plans for athletics, testing, security, students enrolled in Career Tech, special events and staff pay issues are all being addressed.

The first priority, though, is to ensure that our kids are taken care of and have adequate food. A complex plan to provide food services through the child nutrition department has been developed and will allow for school buses to carry food to a variety of locations throughout the district. Providing one meal a day is not going to fill the void, or the stomachs of our kids, who are used to having breakfast and lunch at school at no charge, through a federal program. It is something, however, and anticipated usage is high.

Community partners like the City of Oklahoma City, United Way of Central Oklahoma, Regional Food Bank, YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs, Urban League and many others are stepping in to assist with additional food and resources. There are also many in the faith-based community making plans and ready to assist. These partners are mobilizing and ready to use valuable resources to fill the gaps for our kids and families. These agencies serve our community in many ways every day of the year and certainly have ongoing needs for these resources. But, the Oklahoma Standard says that our community helps in time of need, so these partners are there.

Teachers need a pay raise and the fact that it has come to this should not be forgotten. We can easily keep this top of mind at our polling place and by encouraging those in our circles of influence to do the same. It’s also important to remember that teacher pay is not our only issue. We continue a race to the bottom with our per-pupil expenditures. Increasing funding for education is also on the plan and must not be seen as a place to negotiate. A recent study conducted by conservative researcher Lori Tyler, from Texas A&M University, supports with data a direct correlation between per-pupil funding and student outcomes, such as test scores and graduation rates.

If we as a state are not willing to invest in our children, we will pay a price. Oklahoma cannot be prosperous without a healthy and educated citizenry. We will also pay a price through an increasingly bad reputation, which certainly affects economic development.

And, as important as those factors are, we pay a moral price. The Oklahoma Standard will be just hollow words. The time is now.

Read Mary Mélon’s original NewsOK editorial.

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