What an Oklahoma Teacher Wants You to Know About “The Walkout”

If you’ve been plugged in to any source of media in the last few weeks, you’ve probably seen a few things making waves: our POTUS on Twitter, more cute Kardashian babies, and the Oklahoma “teacher walkout”. Only one of these things has probably actually come as a shock to the masses, as Oklahoma has taken the nation by storm in an uprising that has been foreshadowed, but never actually implemented…until now.

There are more versions of “what will happen” circulating than Snapchat filters, and everyone seems to have an opinion. I’m not here to give any specific opinions or seem biased in any way. However, as an Oklahoma teacher, I do wish to use this platform to continue doing what I do best–educate. I’ll be speaking as both a teacher AND a mama–the two strongest voices you will ever want to advocate for your children, other than your own.

So. Let’s talk! Grab your {probably cold} coffee, give the kids some screen time and pay attention. It’s actually kind of important.

What is it?

The walkout is designed to give a voice to not only teachers, but also administrators, support staff, and even parents. While many seem to think the only thing that our “voice” is saying is “give us more money”, that is only the tip of the {very large} iceberg. This affects EVERY OKLAHOMAN, whether you have children or not. To keep it short, sweet and simple enough, April 2nd is a date that has been set as a warning to legislatures that if specific needs are not met, we will “strike” until they are. Thanks to the media, it is hard to pinpoint every single thing seeking resolution (and it changes constantly), but just please hear me when I tell you: just because it’s on ANY source of media, doesn’t mean it’s always real (although social media has been influential–more about that below). 

Why is it happening?

I’m going to give you a few facts. Then, I’ll connect the dots for you.

Fact #1:

Since 2008, public school enrollment has increased by nearly 40,000 students, while state aid funding has fallen by $213 million. Also, there has not been a pay increase for most state employees since 2008. The second most recent pay increase for teachers was in 1999.

Fact #2:

In Oklahoma, 383 teachers leave the profession monthly–whether it be for another state or a total profession change.

383 teachers. Monthly. Let that sink in. 

Fact #3:

The average teacher pay for Oklahoma is $45,245, the lowest in the nation. Don’t let that fool you–a first year teacher salary starts at $31,600, while a 25-year-veteran teacher with a doctorate still only makes $46,000.

So, if you want to get technical, let’s do the math:

A first year teacher, working an average of 60 hours per week (ohhh, you thought we only worked our “contract time”?), 44 weeks a year (y’all REALLY thought we got more than 2 months off in the summer?) equates to a monthly pay of $2,633, weekly pay of $718, and an hourly wage of $11.97.

{Obviously once you factor in taxes, benefits, etc. that number will be different for each person. Let me just say this: my take-home–even with a small stipend for teaching Special Education–is $2,100, which doesn’t even cover our mortgage and daycare. I made more money waiting tables in college.}

So, what’s my point? Sure seems like I’m only talking about money, right? In a way, I am. We rank 39th in the nation for education–why? It’s pretty simple, actually: we don’t have enough qualified teachers to teach the influx of students we continue to receive. Why? Because some of us literally cannot afford to be in the very profession we love. This isn’t an issue that has just started…this has been happening for almost 30 years. 

What’s the end game?

Change. Raises. Security. Acknowledgement of the issue. Keeping amazing educators, which means a better education for our children–who are, in fact, the future of this great state. I could go on, but I think you catch my drift, sweet mama.

What about my kids’ school?

Since it is illegal to strike in Oklahoma, each district has to vote on whether to support the walkout or not. Some have made it official by closing the entire district until a bill is signed in to action, some have other ways of supporting. With so many last minute ideas being pushed through to avoid the walkout in its entirety, it’s hard for most school boards to determine their plan of action yet.

Why should I care?

Contrary to some ugly remarks I’ve heard, this all boils down to what is best for our students. ALL of this, is for ALL of them–past, present and future. In the 2011-12 school year there were only 32 “emergency certifications” granted. Now, there have been almost 2,000 issued. This means there are over 50,000 students in classrooms across the state being taught by unqualified personnel. Emergency certifications are issued to try and fill the open positions that certified teachers are now creating by leaving the state (or just the profession) for better compensation. This means poorer education value for our children, as well as people in the classroom who end up on the front page of the paper because they haven’t been properly trained on how to handle certain situations.

What can I do?

You can be a voice by calling/emailing your local representative(s) and telling them what you think. If you need a script, here are a few options!

You can check out these groups on Facebook for updates on what is going on, as well as how to help in the community in event of long term school closings, whether it be by packing lunches for kiddos who won’t have access to the school or helping find childcare:

 Oklahoma Teacher Walkout – The Time Is Now!

Pastors for Oklahoma Kids

Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

Maybe you aren’t heated about this, and that’s okay! If anything, just thank a teacher. Most of us will still be here after the smoke clears, no matter the outcome. At the end of the day, I’m someone’s “person”, if only to be the smile they see each day. To “my” kids I am a counselor, teacher, tutor, mom-away-from-mom, and consistent beacon of light when there may not be one anywhere else for them.

There’s nothing that could pay better than that.

, , , ,

3 Responses to What an Oklahoma Teacher Wants You to Know About “The Walkout”

  1. Leah March 17, 2018 at 9:32 am #

    You explained it well! Many people have strong opinions, but haven’t taken the time to really listen or look at the problems. It’s not as simple as “I want a raise”! Maybe you can write installment two and include how class sizes have increased, and support personnel make considerably less than even the teachers do…and we ALL know how much support personnel MATTERS.

  2. Becky March 23, 2018 at 8:09 am #

    My friend, a retired teacher, decided to work as a teachers aide. She had taught in the same field and was very qualified. She was shocked when her first month’s take home after taxes was about $600! She quit after one year.

  3. Tom Smith April 24, 2018 at 11:24 am #

    Fact #1 doesn’t reflect that salaries are “capped” at 25 years, so a ton of old teachers like me haven’t seen a raise since Mt. St. Helens flipped it’s lid (okay, I exaggerate)
    Fact #2 don’t forget about all of our “emergency” certifications which are quickly becoming the new normal (oh, wait, I see you have that covered now)
    Fact #3 I love the way they throw in administrators and coaches to distort the average, if that’s not enough then they compensate for cost of living compared to other states, with enough statistical manipulation we could be paid more that CEOs or lobbyists!
    Great stuff you have here, I’d love to get feed back from you on my experience with the walkout
    https://legacyandlunacy.wordpress.com/2018/04/23/inside-the-walkout/

Leave a Reply