By now you are all aware that teachers in Oklahoma are conducting a walkout for school funding. We have been without students and teachers for three days now. Responding to the growing demand for substitute teachers, our district determined that we would have unsafe conditions in our schools for the rest of this week and chose to cancel school. There are pain points to these choices, for parents, for children, and for teachers. I’ve spoken with dozens of Putnam City teachers worried about testing, contests and other short-term concerns, but they are committed that the long-term needs for school funding currently outweigh those concerns.
No matter where you stand on the issue, I wanted to give you a few highlights from my time at the Capitol. For a history teacher, it has been quite exciting to see teachers standing up for what they believe in and organizing together. I’ve seen former students who are now teachers and teacher’s assistants in our schools. I’ve seen parents with their children. I’ve seen retired Putnam City teachers. I’ve seen my own former teachers who are still in the classroom. They are all there together with one message.
I’ve also seen a skeleton. There’s lots of levity in the signage. Several people are dressed in costumes or using props to make their points known. I’ve seen about a million references to some aspect of Harry Potter. I’ve seen Dee Snyder’s face on a sign, and heard a high school brass ensemble play “We’re not Gonna Take It!”
It’s a pretty congenial atmosphere, with everyone waiting patiently in line for their turn to enter the Capitol, lots of thank yous to the state troopers there scanning everyone, several people saying “excuse me” as they bump into another in the marching line, etc.
The Putnam City group has an encampment, so to speak, where all the schools are coming together. Only at convocation do we ever have the opportunity for teachers from all buildings in the same place. That happens once a year.
I hope and pray that something positive for education funding comes out of this experience, but if there isn’t a resolution, I will always remember seeing the camaraderie present among the Putnam City teachers, and be proud.