Attacking Teachers Doesn’t Improve Education

Educating Oklahoma’s children is not a partisan issue.  It may come as a surprise to the Oklahoma GOP that the 35,000 members of the Oklahoma Education Association are evenly split in their political party affiliation.  So while they may disagree on other issues, on this they speak with a unified voice: our public schools need the help of the Oklahoma State Legislature.  

There are good bills still alive this session that would solve real problems in our classrooms, and only two months of the year left to pass them.  It is sad to see that some legislators prefer to spend that precious time meddling with teachers’ paychecks.  

House Bill 1749 would take away a teacher’s right to have dues for a professional association automatically deducted from his or her paycheck.  This service costs the state nothing, is completely voluntary, and it saves educators time.  It is a minor benefit, but a benefit nonetheless.  The bill doesn't target the right of other public employees to use this identical service.  It doesn't even target teachers’ right to payroll deduct to other entities like banks, United Way, even gym membership.  It simply targets the one association speaking the loudest on behalf of Oklahoma's students and teachers.  

It is true that the OEA and a portion of the legislature disagree on issues such as whether to send taxpayer dollars to private schools in the form of vouchers.  We also disagree on whether we need charter schools in rural Oklahoma.  But there are far more issues on which we agree, and that should be the focus of the remainder of the legislative session.  Let’s focus on reducing the millions of dollars we send to out of state testing companies for high stakes standardized tests.  Let’s focus on doing away with our distinction of having made the largest per student spending cuts in the nation.  Let’s focus on recruiting and retaining outstanding teachers so that we can fill the 1,000 vacant teaching positions throughout the state.  

If the legislature would prefer to spend its time meddling in teachers’ pocketbooks, rather than focusing on providing a great public school for every Oklahoma child, that’s a pity and doesn’t bode well for Oklahoma.  But legislators are sorely mistaken if they think that the 35,000 education professionals of the OEA will stop speaking loudly and clearly in the interests of our schools and our students with or without the passage of HB 1749.  



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