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Words and Action Matter

Teachers & Principals | 05/03/2016

Amber England
Oklahoma Executive Director

Amber England is the Executive Director of Stand for Children Oklahoma.

“Why in the world would you go into public education? It’s such a tough job with so many challenges.”

Have you ever heard a question like this asked of a teacher in public education? I hear questions like this all the time.

Why would someone question education as their profession of choice? Shouldn’t we want more men and women working to improve outcomes for kids in our classrooms?

That’s why today is so important.

Today marks National Teacher Appreciation Day, and it’s incumbent upon all of us working to improve outcomes for kids to change the way we think of the teaching profession so that we never question a bright woman or man’s decision to work in education—it should simply be the expectation.

Can you imagine hearing someone say, “Why in the world would you go into medicine?” Or “Why are you in engineering?”

Restoring the nobility of the teaching profession and respect for educators starts with the way we think of educators. But we shouldn’t stop there. We have to do more.

Last year, during this very week, we issued a “Teachers Matter Report” to bring serious attention to Oklahoma’s teacher shortage and to elevate the conversation about how we can better respect teachers and the profession. The report included a specific call to action—giving teachers a seat at the table when discussing policy changes that affect them. And, yes, the call to action included a conversation about how we compensate teachers.

We all know the stats right here in Oklahoma: 48th in teacher pay and dead last when compared with surrounding states.

Teacher pay is so bad in Oklahoma the Dallas Independent School District is capitalizing on it by recruiting Oklahoma teachers on social media. Dallas ISD is asking Oklahoma teachers to take the short drive down I-35 for better pay and more support.

We say we want great teachers in every classroom, yet Oklahoma is in the midst of a teacher shortage—with news of more teacher layoffs each week.

We say teachers need resources, yet Oklahoma ranks 49th in the nation in per-student spending—with even more cuts looming!

If we really want to show teachers our appreciation, we need to go beyond posting inspirational quotes on Facebook and giving them lip service—we must act.

Luckily, there is a plan that makes a difference in the lives of our teachers. State Question 779 will give every teacher a $5,000 raise and inject more funding into our classrooms.

This year we have a chance to actually do something to show our teachers we appreciate them. That’s why I’m voting YES for State Question 779 and why I’ll continue to set the expectation that all bright women and men choose to a career in education.

It’s the way it should be.

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