Advocates For Oklahoma Education React to Governor's Address
TULSA, Oklahoma - Monday the Governor presented his first State of the State Address at the Capitol in Oklahoma City. A key topic was education with the Governor proposing to invest nearly $100 million more in public education funding.
“My Administration is committed to public education and understands the large majority of our students attend public schools. Over the next few years, we will move the needle in outcomes. We will set high standards. We will enact reforms. We will invest in the classroom,” the Governor said. “but we must first continue our investment in the teacher because it’s not programs, curriculum, or resources that students will remember. The magic happens between the student and the teacher in the classroom,” That statement drew a standing ovation.
The Governor is calling on the State Legislature to bring teachers to number one in the region when it comes to pay and benefits. An investment in an additional $1,200 increase per teacher. He’s also calling on the Legislature to fund a bonus recruitment program of up to five million dollars to encourage certified teachers to stay in Oklahoma.
“State government cannot fix educations’ funding needs alone. We must stand arm-in-arm with communities, cities, and counties. Oklahoma is stronger when we are all working together.”
In his remarks, the Governor also recognized Rep. Rhonda Baker and House Minority Leader Emily Virgin for their commitment to education funding.
“We must not forget that education should be first and foremost about our students, not about systems. I will sign into law any legislation that seeks to break down the silos between common education, career techs, and higher education so that we can better align the education experience for Oklahoma’s children and prepare them for tomorrow’s workforce of machinists, computer programmers, engineers and more.”
Reactions from around the state quickly came in following the Governor’s address.
“Really pleased that he’s keeping education a priority,” Shawna Mott Wright with the Tulsa Classroom Teacher’s Association said. “One thing was talking about $1,200 raise would put us at the top of the region. Umm, no. Wrong. That’s actually not correct math which is probably not his fault, to be honest. We’re asking for $3,000 and that’s just for this year and that would not put us at the top region –we still need more.”
Mott-Wright says we need to do what needs to be done for our classroom children to get class sizes smaller, offer more AP classes and integrate more when it comes to arts and physical education.
“I’m cautiously optimistic and appreciate that we are being talked about finally because our kids deserve more.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister reacted to the Governor’s remarks, “We applaud Gov. Stitt for his commitment to lifting teacher pay to the highest in the region. Regionally competitive compensation is one of a number of important steps necessary for public education in Oklahoma to reach top 10 status. The Governor and I share the goal, and we are eager to partner with him and the Legislature for the benefit of Oklahoma schoolchildren.”
OSSBA Executive Director Shawn Hime also sent out a release in response to the State of the State Address saying, “Gov. Stitt’s focus on supporting public education and his proposal to invest nearly $100 million more in public education funding are promising signs that this legislative session will build on last year’s historic investment in Oklahoma’s children and their schools.
The state’s largest-ever teacher pa raise was a critical step in reversing a history of chronic underfunding amid an ongoing, severe teacher shortage. Still, states surrounding Oklahoma invest on average about $1,100 per student more in public education. We continue to hear from education leaders about the desperate need for a long-term funding education plan to reduce class size; restore elective coursework like art, music, honor courses; provide classroom resources; increase training support for teachers, and broaden access to mental health counselors and school-based social workers.
Oklahoma’s teachers continue to love and educate nearly 700,000 children under difficult conditions. They need support and relief, and our children deserve better. We look forward to working with the governor and legislators to ensure our state’s public schools and the children they serve, remain a top priority.”
Oklahoma Education Association also released a response shortly after the address calling for more, “We’re glad Gov. Stitt wants to continue investing in Oklahoma public education and insists teachers are what students will remember most after they graduate.
We were honored when he held up OEA member Donna Gradel as an example of a great teacher. When he asked us to reimagine Oklahoma education we thought of Donna’s example in meeting that vision. She is a highly qualified, certified teacher. That’s what we want for every public school classroom—a highly qualified, certified teacher.
It is positive that Stitt wants to make teacher pay top in the region, but $1,200 won’t get us there. We’re asking for a $3,000 teacher pay raise this year. At the same time, we can’t forget our support professionals many of whom make just above minimum wage in very difficult jobs. We are still seeking a $2,500 raise for them. The OEA is also asking for $150 million for our classrooms, to help schools hire more teachers to lower classroom sizes and being back AP, fine arts, world language, and other dropped classes.
Over the next few weeks, we will have time to discuss details about how we get to the top, but today we are encouraged that the governor wants great things for our students. And we believe we have a legislature that still wants to improve on the progress we made last year in better funding public education.”