By Nehemiah Frank
Okla. — Let’s be frank! What happened this past Tuesday at the Oklahoma state capital was pretty f–ked-up. Once again, state legislators had the opportunity to halt the pedagogue brain-drain that has haunted the state since 2008; but of course, Oklahoma leaders voted against a revenue bill that would have given state teachers their much needed and well deserved, although minuscule, pay raise of $3,000.
State D-Rep. Regina Goodwin, of House District 73, had this to say “The Republican Education Chair, Rogers, who promoted the teacher pay raise bill last session, took his vote off the board to allow the Speaker to cast his vote. They were making sure not to get too close to the 76 votes needed. There are 72 Republicans.”
Moreover, Okla. R-Gov. Mary Fallin rallied the halls of the capitol building on Monday along with various pro-education advocacy groups only to be let down when the bill fell five votes short of passing.
HB 1054 was estimated to accrue $400 million for Fiscal Year 2019.
Gov. Fallin expressed her disappointment: “I’m extremely disappointed by the House of Representatives failing to pass House Bill 1054X, which would have addressed a $215 million shortfall in our current fiscal year budget and provided a teacher pay raise. It is discouraging that some members have chosen politics over taking care of people by refusing to vote for this budget package and have shown they are not willing to move our state forward.”
Tulsa Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist said this: “We are all looking to our state leaders to identify a sustainable revenue plan and get our state back on track. We cannot continue along this road where every year school districts are being forced to make heart-wrenching decisions to keep the doors open. It’s imperative that our legislators address Oklahoma’s structural deficit, reinvest in education, and ensure that our teachers receive the professional salaries they deserve as the stewards of our next generation of leaders. I urge every Oklahoman to take action today – call your legislators and let them know that it’s time to agree on a swift and sustainable solution.”
Dr. Gist Q and A on HB 1054 Let Down
BWST: How do you feel about the let down of HB 1054?
Superintendent Gist: It’s disappointing that our state leaders have not yet been able to agree to a revenue package, but I remain hopeful that they will keep working together to create a sustainable plan that includes a pay increase for our teachers.
BWST: What does the no vote say about state legislators’ views in regards to education?
Superintendent Gist: I believe that our legislators care deeply about education and that they want to reinvest in our schools. This is a problem that was decades in the making and likely began long before many of them even took office.
BWST: What are the next steps?
Superintendent Gist: The best next steps right now are for every Oklahoman to contact their state legislators – make a call, send an email, write a Facebook message, and then tell your friends to do the same!
Okla. Sen. Kevin Matthews had this to say: “I voted yes hoping to create momentum to start the momentum to raise revenue and teachers pay and to reinstate earned income tax credit to working families. I believe the conservative majority does not support public schools that all of my family attended. Ten years of cuts show what they think of teachers and public education. Although the bill was not near all of what we would like, my constituents sent me a strong message to save the advantage waiver program. Some called in severe distress and tears. We need to vote in legislators who believe in public education, affordable healthcare, public safety, and criminal justice reform as well as higher wages for working folks. We don’t need elected officials that look down their noses at the poor and vulnerable and support prisons and jails over teachers and schools. Blaming teachers, working folks, and poor, instead of listening, will lead to a society of only two classes of people. We will only have the super rich and the super poor if we don’t start electing people who reflect the views of us all.”
Thus, the hamster wheel continues in Oklahoma. An endless cycle of inferior funding for the state’s future generations. The Republican super majority in the House and Senateis responsible for the inadequate funding of Oklahoma’s public education system.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the Founder & Editor in Chief of the Black Wall St. Times. Frank is also the Co-Producer of “Black Coffee” and Co-Producer of the “Dominic Durant Sports Show.” He graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL in General Studies, and earned a 2nd degree in Political Science from Oklahoma State University. Frank is a middle school History and English teacher, a writer for Education Post, and has been nationally recognized for his activism work on NBC and Blavity. Nehemiah dedicates most of his time to empowering and uplifting his community and was recently awarded as a Terence Crutcher Foundation Honoree.