50,000 Set to Attend OKED 2015 Rally in Support of Education at the Capitol
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Today Jeffery Corbett, President of the Oklahoma PTA, the only parent association member of the Oklahoma Education Coalition, announced an estimated 50,000 family members, teachers, administrators and community leaders will come together in support of children and funding for education on the south steps of the Capital during the March 30th OKED Rally 2015.
“Our children deserve better” will be the resounding cry of our group,” said Corbett who expressed his dissatisfaction with the results of last year’s education rally.
“In 2014, we came together as a united family, requesting our legislators pass HB 2642, which would have provided automatic increases in common education funding for the next decade,” stated Corbett. “We also told our legislators that we wanted high stakes testing to stop. Unfortunately, of the 2.1% increase that was given to education very little actually reached the classroom.”
This year’s legislative session must be different, notes Corbett. Issues highlighted during the Rally will include a moratorium on policies that force public schools to rely on high-stakes testing, the removal of the sunset provision of the Reading Sufficiency Act and increased pay for teachers.
Oklahoma PTA’s Resolution on assessment and accountability is critical because it calls for the State of Oklahoma to reexamine public school accountability systems and requests that teachers and administrators, as well as leaders in the university academic community, work together to create realistic tests that effectively measure a district’s progress in helping students meet state standards, while using their own locally developed curricula.
“To say a child, a school and a teacher should be judged solely on an impersonal, often flawed, series of high stakes tests does not take into account the needs of the system as a whole. We need to stop trying to fix the current system and come together to create a new dynamic that is based in the three “c’s – caring, compassion and connections between family members, teachers, administrators and academic professionals,” said Corbett.
Another flaw in the testing system concerns the sunset provision of the Reading Sufficiency Act. A Student Reading Proficiency Team comprised of a parent, two teachers, principal and a reading specialist can recommend if the child has the skills to move to fourth grade.
“Unfortunately, the sunset provision mandates that this proficiency team will disappear after 2015. We are calling on our legislators to ensure this very effective portion of the Act stays in place so our children are individually assessed and helped as they deserve,” said Corbett.
As always, increased teacher pay and education funding will be the hot button of the event and one that causes the most concern for families and educators every year.
“Oklahoma PTA was particularly distressed in 2014 when many people unfairly labeled our call for increased teacher’s pay a “union” issue, when nothing could be farther from the truth,” said Corbett.
An Oklahoma teacher makes on average of $3,600 less than their counterparts throughout the region. Corbett noted an estimated $72 million will need to be added to the State budget to take the first step toward equalizing teacher’s salaries, a $1,200 raise, or 2.7% increase over 2014.
This is of particular concern, because education funding continues to experience shortfalls across the board. Oklahoma remains first in the nation for the most funding cuts made in public education since just before the Great Recession. The Center on Budget Policy and Priorities report shows Oklahoma cut per-pupil funding by 23.6 percent between 2007-2008 and 2014-2015, the largest percentage in the nation. That equals a loss of $857 per student. While the Legislature increased education funding in 2014, the report found per-pupil funding is still down 0.8 percent compared with last school year. Oklahoma is currently 49th in the nation in per pupil expenditures and teacher pay.
“Oklahoma’s children deserve better than 49th”, said Corbett. “This year, we’re coming back twice as strong and look forward to making tremendous strides in education in 2015.”