The teachers’ walkout is officially over – so one school district is sending its students to the state capital.
For two weeks, Blanchard Public Schools were shut down as teachers swarmed the Capitol in Oklahoma City to demand more school funding and higher raises.
They didn’t get what they wanted. But they got a huge wake-up call on how the Legislature actually works – a lesson Superintendent Jim Beckham wants students to witness, too.
“Our teachers are in the process of taking field trips each day to Oklahoma City … taking groups of students each day not to lobby lawmakers, but just to view the legislative process,” Beckham said.
“There were teachers that actually did not know what happens at the Capitol when bills are drafted and made into law. They can explain to students how that happened. Kids need to see how that happened.”
What Oklahoma teachers want vs. what they've gotten
The Oklahoma teachers' union wants:
- $10,000 raises for teachers
- $5,000 raises for support staff, such as janitors and cafeteria workers
- $200 million in education funding
What just got signed into law:
- Average teacher raises of $6,100
- $1,250 raises for support staff
- $50 million in education funding
The first busload of students – a group of seniors – arrived at the Capitol on Monday, the first day of classes since the walkout.
Blanchard High School student Kathryn Stacy said sending students to the Capitol “is one of the most brilliant ideas that I’ve heard.”
“Students need to be more involved in their government process,” she said.
Beckham’s goal is to get every Blanchard student there before the end of the school year, which has been extended several days due to the walkout.
He realizes the walkout was a hardship for some parents who had to scramble to find day care plans. But he said about 90% of the parental feedback he’s received has been positive, as students feel the pinch of tight budgets every day.
Stacy said her trigonometry textbook this year was so dilapidated, the entire first chapter was gone.
“It had fallen out because it’s been used for so many years,” the 18-year-old said.
The senior said she’s excited for her class to go on the field trip May 1 because many students are frustrated.
“It will show legislators that they’re fighting for a real cause,” she said. “They’re fighting so that students can go to school and read from a textbook that wasn’t made in 2005.”