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Thousands Rally at State Capitol In Support of Oklahoma Public Education

50,000 people were expected to be at the education rally at the capitol on Monday, but nowhere near that many came. However the teachers that were there made their presence known.

About 5,000 people showed up for the education rally at the State Capitol on Monday.

Most were teachers and school administrators who came to tell lawmakers that their shrinking budgets are making it difficult to give kids a quality education, and they need more funding.

Janet Weaver, a teacher at Hartshorne High school, says sometimes her school doesn’t have enough money for even the most basic things.

“I buy pencils for my students, I buy paper for my students… if they don’t have a pencil they can’t do my work,” she said.

Raising teacher pay to the regional average was another rally cry. Brianne Peters, a Pre-K teacher from Maud Public Schools, said the $28,000 a year that she makes doesn’t cut it.

“We’re not asking to make a million dollars—we’re just asking for a livable wage,” said Peters.

Oklahoma is currently ranked 48th in the nation for teacher pay according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Senator Jason Smalley says a $611 million budget shortfall will make it difficult—if not impossible—to  give the educators the additional funding they want.

“The money aspect is very easy for me. The state of Oklahoma doesn't have it. So we can't give money where we don't have that money,” said Smalley.

Rally-goers also wanted legislators to do-away with high stakes testing such as the End of Instruction exams that highschoolers must pass to graduate.

Senator Ron Sharp, the Vice Chair for the Senate Education Committee,  said teachers need to be more reliable voters and contact their legislators more often if they want change to happen.

“You can’t just come up here one time and expect us to act. The squeaky wheel gets the grease in politics,” he said.

This is the second year in a row that educators have rallied on the state capitol.

Emily Wendler was KOSU's education reporter from 2015 to 2019.
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