Teachers rally for kids

Nathan Thompson |
Journal-Capital
Thousands of public school teachers and supporters gathered in record numbers Monday at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City to rally for adequate education funding.

Nathan Thompson/Journal-Capital

OKLAHOMA CITY — Tens of thousands of Oklahoma teachers converged on the State Capitol Monday for a rally insisting that lawmakers fully fund public education, and most area school districts continued to suspend classes through at least Tuesday to let the protect continue.

Educators from Pawhuska, Woodland, Bowring, Avant and Skiatook joined teachers from across the state to support that message as well.

While Barnsdall Public Schools continued to hold classes on both Monday and Tuesday, a delegation of teachers traveled to Oklahoma City to show their support as well.

Waving colorful signs filled with messages to lawmakers, the supporters filled the plaza on the south side of the Capitol building while hearing from representatives of the Oklahoma Education Association, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

“We will be here at 9 a.m. every day until the legislature acts and fully-funds education,” OEA President Alicia Priest said.

After just over two hours of speeches, the teachers surrounded the Capitol building and marched in the largest picket line in years.

Janie Bradley teaches second grade at Pawhuska’s Indian Camp Elementary School. She said she attended Monday’s rally for her students.

“My students are amazing and they have so much potential,” Bradley said. “They need the support of our state to help them grow and help them get to their destiny.”

Last week, state Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, voted against the revenue measures that funded teacher pay increases. He spent the day meeting with teachers from across Osage County.

Roberts was not immediately available to speak to the Journal-Capital during Monday’s rally.

Gov. Mary Fallin said she was appreciative of the teachers voicing their concerns and was proud to sign the revenue measures last week. However, the governor cautioned teachers that there is not an easy answer to get additional funding.

“Just like Oklahoma families, we are only able to do what our budget allows. Significant revenue-raising measures were approved to make this pay raise and additional school funding possible,” Fallin said. “We must be responsible not to neglect other areas of need in the state such as corrections and health and human services as we continue to consider additional education funding measures. I look forward to continuing to talk with legislative leaders and teachers as we forge a positive pathway forward for education.”

Barnsdall Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Lay sent out an automatic phone call Monday evening to let parents and students know if the state legislature does not act, there will be no school Wednesday and possibly into Thursday.

“Six Barnsdall staff members joined the protest in Oklahoma City and represented our school,” Lay said in the phone call. “We are disappointed to see that the legislature did not take any action to provide additional funding sources to support their promised initiatives. Therefore, the staff feels that we need to join the protest if the legislature does not take action (Tuesday)… If the legislature does not take action, we will suspend school Wednesday, April 4 and most likely Thursday, April 5.

Pawhuska school leaders and other school districts across Osage County are continuing to monitor the situation in Oklahoma City, and will let students and parents know on a daily basis whether or not classes will continue to be suspended.