By Jeff Shultz
Teachers in Garvin County will either be at the Capitol Monday to rally for a pay raise or they will be in the classroom teaching.
A check on how school districts will handle a proposed walk out and possible strike by Oklahoma’s teachers reveals different responses by each district.
The issue at hand is Oklahoma’s dwindling education funding.
Oklahoma’s teachers rank last in the region for salary and benefits and ranks 47th in the nation in per pupil spending.
The state is also losing a large number of teachers to other states who are offering higher pay and better benefits.
The Oklahoma Education Association has been calling for a statewide walk out by educators with Monday, April 2, as the date for the walk out.
“Our hopes and prayers are that something will be accomplished this week at the capitol, and a work stoppage will be avoided,” said Stratford Superintendent of Schools Michael Blackburn in a letter to school patrons.
In the event of a walk out and possible work stoppage, each school district in the county differs in how they will handle the situation.
Here is a breakdown of how some school districts will respond to a walk out and possible work stoppage.
Teachers in the district were surveyed with a majority of the teachers stating school should continue on April 2.
A voluntary group of teachers will travel to the Capitol Monday to join their counterparts from other school districts in rallying for better pay and funding.
“Those teachers will not be penalized for missing school that day,” Superintendent Dr. Shelly Beach told the News Star.
In the event there are a large number of personnel walking out on April 2, school will be called off for the safety of the students, Beach added.
“For each day we are not in session, a day will be added to the end of the school year,” she said.
According to Blackburn, school will be dismissed on April 2.
“This will be a teacher professional work day,” Blackburn said in his letter.
“Should a work stoppage continue past Monday, April 2, and the number of teachers who walkout exceeds our ability to safely conduct school, it will be our recommendation to suspend school for as long as those conditions exist.”
Blackburn said the school administration and school board will re-evaluate the situation at the end of each week and will make a decision based on the feedback they receive from the teachers.
According to Mike Martin, Superintendent of Schools, the plan is to dismiss classes on Monday.
“This is done to show support to our teachers. Hopefully it will be a day we can celebrate if the legislature gets something done this week,” he said.
A survey was given to all 107 teachers the district employs and out of those responses only 19 said they wanted to walk out.
“Our people want to continue to teach,” he said.
A special Board of Education meeting was scheduled for Wednesday night, March 28, to discuss the possible walk out and how the district will handle a possible work stoppage.
Martin said classes will resume on Tuesday, April 3, which happens to be the day PV school patrons will be voting on a new bond issue for a new elementary school and band and ag facilities.
Martin said he is “concerned” the walk out on April 2 will have a negative impact on the election on April 3.
According to Superintendent David Morris, school will be in session on Monday.
In an open letter to school patrons, which was published in the News Star last week, Morris noted state testing begins the same day as the planned walk out.
“This year Paoli School has been selected to be monitored during state testing by the State Department of Education and plans on being in school,” he said.
“The state randomly selects schools for monitoring; this means they are going to observe and make sure schools are following guidelines for state testing and we want to do our part.
“Paoli will support the current educational movement by allowing a voluntary delegation to attend and represent our school at the capitol.”