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A Letter From WACT

The teachers of Wagoner Public Schools want to thank the community, businesses, and especially parents and students for the outpouring of support during this challenging time of advocating for educational funding. For the past two weeks, Wagoner teachers have maintained a consistent and determined presence at the Capitol. Our teachers have met with legislators, sat in on Senate and House sessions, networked with other schools, and established an incredible bond within our own district.  We have rallied both at the Capitol and in our own community to increase awareness of the funding desperately needed to properly educate our students and retain quality teachers.

 

What we are seeking:

Teachers across the state have come together to put pressure on our legislature to finally make education a priority.  Since the financial crisis of 2009, Oklahoma has led the nation in cuts to education. In 2009, the State of Oklahoma allocated $2.53 billion to the Department of Education. Currently, the State allocates $2.43 billion to education, nearly a 4% decrease from 2009, and a 22% decrease when adjusting for inflation#.

This assumes that the student population of Oklahoma didn’t grow in that same time period.

 

When adjusting these numbers for student growth over the the past ten years, the situation is even more dismal. According to the OK State Department of Education website, the student population of Oklahoma increased by nearly 50,000 from 2009 to 2017.

 

Year

Allocated

Enrollment

Amount per Student

% Increase/ Decrease Since 2009

%Decrease with Inflation Since 2009

2009

$2,531,702,553

644,754

$3,926.62

N/A

N/A

2018

$2,432,159,067

701,000*

$3,469.56

-11.6%

-28.0%

2019

$2,912,348,009**

707,000*

$4,119.30

+5.0%

-13.5%

 

#Assumes an average 1.7% annualized inflation rate from 2009 to 2018. (From U. S. Core Consumer Price Index)

 

*The State Department of Education estimated 2017 student enrollment at 694,816. Student enrollments in 2018 and 2019 are estimates using the average yearly growth rate of 6,000 students from 2009 to 2018.

 

 

**Accounts for HB 1010xx using projections from the Oklahoma Policy Institute. When taking both inflation and student growth since 2009 into account, the State of Oklahoma would need to allocate $3.29 billion to education as shown below:

 

Amount per Student in 2009

Inflation Rate at 1.7% Compounded Yearly

Amount Needed per Student 2019

Student Enrollment in 2019

Total

$3,926.62

1.01710 or

(1.183612)

$4,647.60

707,000

$3,285,850,631

 

Therefore, Oklahoma schools are still underfunded in comparison to 2009 dollars. It would take an additional $378 million to get back to that level. This is why teachers continued the walkout even though the legislature passed a bill increasing teachers’ salaries. HB 1010xx does little to address some of the major problems that have developed from underfunding education: large class sizes, outdated curriculum and lacking supplies, fewer elective courses, teacher shortage, etc.

 

Moving forward:

As we determine it is time to return to our classrooms and resume our school schedule, we are actively organizing efforts to maintain pressure on the legislature to secure final funding measures before the end of this session.  Our teachers will continue to advocate by sending delegate groups daily while school is still in session. We encourage parents and community members to join us in these continued efforts in several ways.

  • We need constant emails and phone calls to our legislators demanding adequate funding.
  • Since our efforts in this fight resulted in over 500 candidates filing to run for office as of the second day of candidate filing, we need to back candidates who support education.  Currently specific legislators who are majority leaders are blocking any educational/revenue bills from being heard on the House floor or voted on by our representatives. We must vote people into office who will vote for education. Research each candidate and the stance they take on supporting education. Study their track record.  Vote for the best candidate regardless of party affiliation.
  • Most importantly, we need our community members to register and vote!

 REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER!

 

  • Please be careful not to undo all we have achieved by signing a petition issued by a group hiding behind a front of being for educators. Oklahoma Tax Payers United is seeking signatures to put all of the revenue already voted in to law on hold until it can go to a vote of the people which if passed could delay all of the funding indefinitely. We ask you as our parents and community members not to sign this petition.

 

After thorough consideration of the best interest of our students and the most productive continuing efforts toward advocacy, we will return to school on Tuesday April 17th.

We will continue to send a strong delegation of teachers and hopefully parents/students to the Capitol strategically through the end of the legislative session to remind our state leadership that they have yet to meet the funding needs of our students, and we will maintain a strong presence in the coming school year. We are all excited to reunite with our students and finish this school year stronger than ever.

 

Currently the last day of school is May 23rd as scheduled for all students. So far, the days spent advocating only used built-in inclement weather days and will not have to be made up. The state testing window has been extended, and reviewing and testing will resume immediately. An updated test schedule will be sent out once school resumes. Senior activities and graduation will continue as scheduled.

 

We are weary from our battle and travels over the past two weeks; however, we are rejuvenated by the many kindnesses, massive support and unending gratitude we have experienced from our Bulldog community. We cannot thank you all enough for giving us the means to fight for our students.  We have certainly proven, that when it comes to our students, we will go the distance to provide them a quality education. Although we are shifting tactics, our battle will continue until our student funding needs are met.

 


Sincerely,

 

Stephanie Rexwinkle

Wagoner Association of Classroom Teachers

 

 

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