Things are not getting desperate, they have been desperate for a very long time, especially in rural communities with collapsed economies and limited access to already underfunded resources.
The Oklahoma sky greeted the thousands converging on the state Capitol Monday, April 2 for the start of the statewide teacher walkout with what seemed the appropriate mood and color, on the cusp of storms and a muddled sort of grey.
It was fitting because as more and more buses and bodies arrived in Oklahoma City, the rally like a pending storm rumbled its promise to soon boom. The overcast day worked because there is nothing black and white about the work stoppage or its potentials, both wonderful and worrisome.
The fingers of blame are extended like swords slashing with abandon as House points to Senate, Senate points to industry, unions shout up to the Governor, parents shout for and against educators and kids are left in at least a temporary lurch, one of necessity or frivolity depending on who you ask and on what day.
Each and every finger needs to turn itself around and first land on its owner's lips for some serious contemplation on personal accountability. Things are not getting desperate, they have been desperate for a very long time, especially in rural communities with collapsed economies and limited access to already underfunded resources.
Oklahoma is a state under duress from food insecurity to health, infrastructure, criminal justice, and education. Yet time and again we have welcomed back the same people to represent our interests on municipal, state, and federal levels. Over and over we lay out instructions to the afflicted on how they should make the best of what they don't have instead of not being complacent in allowing funding for basics to be continually misapplied and squandered.
There is room to be riled and frustrated as kids may go hungry and unsupervised during the walkout while also linking arms with educators, not for bonuses, but the basics for those very same kids.
There does not need to exist a disconnect between wanting better action from our school boards while recognizing we should have been doing more to support our districts before there was a crisis, or if we are being honest, before the crisis was being amplified.
What cannot be avoided is this contentious and celebrated organized action has resulted in the state legislature accomplishing what it hadn't been able to for almost three decades - passing revenue-raising measures through a supermajority. So before state government strains a shoulder patting themselves on the back and every burdened parent gets primed to shout a teacher back to work, perhaps there should be some consideration as to why what was clearly possible was never accomplished by our state government in the last decade?
While predictions are already being made on who will be on the "right" side of history in this conflict, most forget that history is always written by the victors and who the so-called victors are shifts about every decade, along with rights to historical revisions. Unfortunately, our sorely outdated textbooks are of little resource in that department.
This work stoppage is a gamble, and like most heavy bets there is a long history of hardship and need behind it. Oklahoma teachers are walking out so they don't have to walk away.
Good old Kenny Rogers sang it best in his hit song 'The Gambler' – "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run..."
Let's hope we figure out how to effect meaningful change in our state before there is a lot more running from Oklahoma and not just by teachers.
Dorothy Ballard is the managing news editor of the Miami News-Record. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @dm_ballard.