We made history in Oklahoma this week, submitting more than 300,000 signatures to the Secretary of State to ensure that State Question 779, a penny sales tax increase to support education, makes it onto the ballot in November. It's a new record for the most signatures ever gathered for an initiative petition in the state, and we gathered those signatures in half the 90 days allowed by state law.
With the help of our coalition partners, including the Oklahoma Education Association, we not only collected the massive number of signatures, but we delivered them with 85 parents, teachers, and college students carrying 85 boxes of signatures into the Secretary of State’s office in the Oklahoma Capitol. The event garnered significant media coverage, including more than 20 articles, TV, and radio stories.
But there is one story I can’t get out of my mind.
While I was waiting for the press conference to begin, a nice lady came up to me and asked me what was going on at the capitol. I politely told her that we were turning in signatures to fund education.
“That’s great,” she replied. “I’m a teacher, and today I’m at the capitol to turn in my retirement paperwork, because of the budget cuts,” she explained.
Then I asked her how long she’d taught.
“37 years,” she replied, as tears began to roll down her face.
At that moment, I couldn’t help but just give her a big hug. I’m so glad she stayed around for the press conference and helped us carry in a box. Turning what would have been a sad day for her into a reason for her to be hopeful.
It was a reminder about why we are working tirelessly to improve education funding in Oklahoma. So teachers aren’t forced to retire — just so schools can keep their doors open.