Asking for a raise isn’t easy. Demanding a raise is even more challenging.
The real hardcore, determining factor involved in asking for a pay raise is whether or not the employer has funding to give the employee the raise. No matter what the profession or job, no matter how well deserved, if there is no money to fund a raise, no raise.
Depending on if you are listening to Oklahoma Republicans or Democrats, there is funding for House Bill 1010xx for teacher pay raises, or there is not. This week more developments in funding support was added through taxation, and both sides sent out conflicting messages on what this meant for Oklahoma teachers and education.
Covering the teacher walkout is challenging. There have been almost hourly developments and much information thrown out from many sources. It’s my job to wade through all that biased information and report the unbiased facts. It isn’t easy.
As with most issues, contrary to occasional criticism, I generally can see the merit and truth regarding controversial or divisive issues from all sides. I use research from credible sources, fact-checking, and interviews with differing parties to discern newsworthy facts to report, and use quotes or credit information to the source if I feel it holds bias or is opinionated.
My goal is to give the reader a fair and impartial account of events that allows them to make their own conclusions.
Teachers need raises, and most deserve them. That’s a point I believe most Oklahomans agree with.
Education is underfunded, another truth I believe most agree with.
Where Oklahomans diverge is how much of a teacher raise and increase in funding for education is appropriate given the state’s economy and budget and how should these expenditures be funded.
So, what’s the solution? Oklahoma lawmakers agreed on taxation funding of $447 million, a huge accomplishment in the state since no such measure of this proportion has passed since 1990, 28 years ago.
Taxation results in both positive and negative effects, creating much-needed revenue, but that revenue ALWAYS comes at a cost to someone.
Given the current political situation in Oklahoma in an election year, I think it is remarkable what teachers have accomplished with the walkout. I also believe, for now, it’s all they are going to get at this time.
Now, before someone goes crazy, let me finish, that does not mean advocacy should end there. I believe two things now need to happen to continue Oklahoma’s push for better education. First, a complete audit of the state’s agencies, departments, and all revenue budgeted receivers must be completed by a bipartisan or unbiased independent committee to determine if the state’s revenues are being appropriately and prudently spent covering the best interests of the state.
Second, Oklahoma teachers, school boards, superintendents, and lawmakers must sit down together as the year proceeds to create a comprehensive education plan to be approved by educators and adopted by the legislature with goals and funding sources. If this doesn’t happen, teachers should not sign their next year’s employment contracts and use this bargaining power to bring change if necessary.
The question isn’t if teacher raises are merited, or if education needs more money, the question is - does the state have the money, or where can the money be found or generated from, and how do lawmakers prioritize the dispensation of tax funding to ensure state support for all needed functions. A hierarchy of needs should be used to determine priority and create systematic, supportive and progressive goals.
If you read the protest signs or took the time to listen to Oklahoma educators, you heard loud and clear from them that this walkout movement was a demand for funding to help provide quality education for their students.
Well, that’s only partly true, the impetus for the movement was indeed also in asking for substantial teacher raises. I’m not sure why the state’s educators who have worked hard, tirelessly, in less than ideal conditions, with challenges beyond imagination for those who don’t teach, wouldn’t honestly admit this issue is also an important part of their agenda.
Standing for what you believe is right and just and is something applaudable and should be respected as an American right.
If you don’t value what you do and earn and demand that respect no one else will value your profession, that goes for a stay at home parent to the CEO of a large company.
I conducted a voluntary and very unscientific quick Facebook poll asking people to respond with their profession and last time they received a raise.
I got a response from 43 people of diverse professions and jobs, of those 27 received a raise within the last year. The rest of those responding to my little poll received no raise within the last year; others received raises over a year ago, and others received pay cuts.
Most of the respondents who had not had raises at all, or no raise for many years, or saw pay cuts work for state departments, such as caseworkers for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. This, in my opinion, is a greater issue with similar and even more severe repercussions than we see in the issues of concern causing the teacher walkout.
One of the biggest issues teachers face and have expressed this week is dealing with children’s issues affected by socio-economic, health and welfare problems. Seems to me, lack of resource and quality services for much-needed children’s welfare social services and assistance to meet basic needs is a root issue and should be priority one for Oklahoma in my opinion.
When a child is dealing with abuse, neglect, or deprivation of basic needs the impact is massive and their ability to focus on education is hindered in the least, annihilated at worst. (In full transparency I sit on the board of a child abuse advocacy organization and served Ottawa County for years professionally in a child advocacy position.)
Oklahomans are ready for state revival, renewal, and growth, but that can only happen if we remember we pledge to be one nation under God, “indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.