Disappointed, But Not Surprised

I'm perplexed!

It’s a day later and I am still sitting here pondering the results of yesterday’s actions at the State Capitol. HB 1749 was voted out of committee by a 4-3 vote with two senators “walking the vote.” While I am disappointed on many levels, I can’t say I am really surprised, and this is the perplexing part.

I’m not surprised because it’s become evident over the last couple of sessions that many of our legislators don’t like teachers, and I don’t know why.

They can say they don’t like the OEA, but really who is the OEA except teachers and support professionals? OEA’s goals are to promote public education and to be a voice for our students. I challenge those who oppose us to read our Mission, Vision and Core Values and then tell me why they hate us enough to want to silence us.

Yes, we fight to increase education employees' salaries, but it is because it helps Oklahoma retain and recruit quality teachers FOR OUR STUDENTS. And, yes, about one third of our locals bargain with their local school boards, but again, remember that a teacher’s working conditions are a child’s learning conditions.

When I listened to Rep. Tom Newell, the author of HB1749, debate the bill in the House he said it was “immoral for schools to have to deduct association dues for teachers.” Immoral? That’s some pretty strong language. First of all, how on earth is payroll deduction a moral issue? Secondly, if it is immoral for teachers then why isn’t it equally immoral for other groups who bargain? The only thing I can come up with is that some of our legislators don’t hate other bargaining groups, they just hate teachers.

So do these legislators then simply dislike each and every individual teacher? Did they have some horrid experience in school and now want to “get even?” Sounds farfetched, but it’s the best I can come up with, and it makes about as much sense as saying payroll deductions are immoral.

These same legislators need to simply look at what teachers do daily in Oklahoma despite being number 49th in the nation in salary plus going seven years without a salary increase. Teachers continue to do their very best each and every day. They do an amazing job educating our students despite working in schools that are inadequately funded. They show up every day and do all those things that are dictated by testing requirements and then they do a whole lot more that isn’t ever seen on a test. They deal with all the baggage that comes to school with their students -- whether it’s problems at home, hunger, sickness or the stress high-stakes testing causes. They inspire a love of learning and teach children to be critical thinkers, not just someone who can color in a bubble on a test. They unlock the key to the future for Oklahoma’s students. In my opinion, they should be revered and respected, not targeted and silenced.

So to our legislators who hate teachers -- You are the ones cutting funding to schools by millions of dollars each year. You pass legislation for high-stakes tests that have our students at an emotional breaking point. You ignore the roll that poverty plays in a classroom. You label and punish teachers, students and school districts so you can help the almighty testing companies make a profit. All this and then you want to blame teachers and try to silence their voice simply because they are trying to tell you what YOUR legislation is doing to Oklahoma’s students. Shame on you.

To those legislators who want to blame teachers, be careful when you point accusingly at teachers. You may have one finger pointing at them, but you have three more pointing back at yourself.


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