Today will be a historic event in Oklahoma education history: Thousands of Oklahoma teachers, parents, and others are gathering for a rally on the steps of our state capitol in Oklahoma City. According to today’s Tulsa World article, “Education funding rally: Thousands of Oklahomans expected to descend on Capitol, press for more school dollars,”
State funding for public education is $230 million lower than it was before the recession hit in 2008, even as the number of students enrolled has risen by 40,000 and the state’s teaching force has been reduced by 1,500 positions because of budget cuts, according to the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, or CCOSA. Recent national studies found that Oklahoma has faced greater per-pupil funding cuts than any other state and that teacher pay ranks last in the region and 49th in the nation.
The best summary of these issues that I’ve seen to date is the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s report, “Restore Education Funding.” You can follow their continued advocacy on this issue on Twitter @Togetherok and @OKPolicy.
The media coverage of education issues in Oklahoma generally, and this education rally specifically, has and continues to be VERY different between The Daily Oklahoman based in Oklahoma City (@newsok) and The Tulsa World (@tulsaworld). I heard more about this on Saturday when I attended the first EdCampTulsa in Jenks, which is a Tulsa suburb. Today’s Daily Oklahoman article (published as an Associated Press article) “Thousands of Oklahoma teachers to rally for education,” makes it sound like Governor Mary Fallin (@GovMaryFallin) is supporting increases to education funding this year:
Gov. Mary Fallin says she supports more funding for public education. Last year she signed a budget bill that included $120 million in new education money. She’s proposed another $50 million funding increase.
The latest tweet from the social media team of Governor Fallin seeks to amplify a message that she is supporting post-secondary education funding.
by Wesley Fryer
Former Oklahoma governor David Boren’s letter from earlier this year, detailed in the Tulsa World article, “OU President David Boren slams governor’s proposed funding cuts for higher education,” clarifies that the funding cuts facing educators, students and parents in Oklahoma are not limited to K-12 schools.
Information about the rally coming from individuals via social media as well as mainstream media outlets will provide good opportunities to analyze bias and discuss the different perspectives these funding cuts to Oklahoma education have inspired. Much more than an academic exercise, however, today’s rally is a unique event offering the opportunity for thousands of Oklahomans to make their voices heard by our legislators and speak out through our democratic process.
While we certainly need to transform our schools in Oklahoma into 21st century learning communities supporting digital as well as traditional literacies, we also need to adequately fund them. Hopefully today’s rally will constructively advance that funding goal. Follow along on social media using the Twitter hashtags I’ve highlighted above if you can’t attend the rally today in person! If you’re there, please share what you see, hear and do via social media using the same hashtags so others can find and further share/amplify that information.
by Wesley Fryer
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