Fallin's State of the State Barely Scratches Education Surface
Statement by the Oklahoma Education Association in response to the State of the State Address:
Today the Oklahoma Education Association was pleased to hear Governor Fallin include education attainment among her top priorities in her State of the State address. The corresponding budget she released includes an increase of $25 million for Common Education, which is a mere 1.2% increase in the budget. Unfortunately, Gov. Fallin barely scratched the surface, in her words and her suggested appropriation, of the education issues that we must address this legislative session.
First, school employees need a pay raise. Oklahoma education employees have waited at the back of the line long enough. It has been seven years since teachers and support professionals have received a statewide raise. While teachers teach because they love teaching and they love their students, they also have families to support, bills to pay, and even school supplies to purchase for their students. Currently, Oklahoma ranks 49th in teacher pay. That is not indicative of making educational attainment a top priority. The teacher is the most important factor in a classroom for influencing a child’s success at school. It’s time to help us retain and recruit the best and the brightest by paying them a competitive salary. This session, the Oklahoma legislature must deal with our chronic underfunding of schools and teacher pay and develop a long-term plan to get to the regional average.
Second, the current high stakes testing system of labeling and punishing students, teachers, and schools is unacceptable. Parents and teachers alike are fighting back against the waste of millions of dollars and thousands of hours of instruction time currently devoted to meaningless high stakes tests. While we support accountability, the purpose of a test should be to improve learning, never to label and punish. Oklahoma needs a common sense approach to testing, which includes input from educators and parents. The OEA applauds the members of both parties who have introduced legislation to improve Oklahoma’s testing requirements, repair the convoluted Teacher and Leader Effectiveness evaluation system, and overhaul the unsound A-F grading system, each of which rely on flawed perceptions of the significance and reliability of high stakes standardized testing.
The OEA looks forward to working with the legislature and the Governor this session to pass meaningful legislation affecting public education, for the benefit of Oklahoma’s students.
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