There’s an Education Crisis Happening in Oklahoma | Part 1

I have one child in Oklahoma’s education system right now and another that will soon follow. I also work with youth and adolescents, spending a good portion of my week in public schools. I have come face-to-face with the worst, but I have also experienced the best. What does the education system look like in your community and how important is it to you? As a parent and/or teacher what do you do when your state is failing students and educators?  

Back in January, I was able to attend an independently organized TED talk at the University of Oklaimg_6535homa (BOOMER!). I am an avid podcast junkie, and I have listened to countless TED talks, so I was beyond thrilled to attend TEDxOU 2017. One of the presenters was Gregg A. Garn, Ph.D., the Dean of the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education at OU. Additionally, he is the executive director of the K20 Center for Educational and Community Renewal and a professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. As if that weren’t enough he also works with state-level policymakers and professional associations in an effort to improve the quality of education in Oklahoma. His full Resume can be viewed here.

His presentation at TEDxOU rattled me to the core. On my lunch break, I was texting co-workers and friends sharing the information I gained. I (slightly) harassed the folks on Twitter (@TEDxOU) for weeks about Dr. Garn’s presentation being published so I could share it with my readers.

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Watch Dr. Garn’s full TED Talk here. I highly encourage you to do so – It’s eye-opening, informative, and he does a remarkable job explaining the seriousness of the state’s current situation. Here’s a synopsis if you can’t spare 17 minutes.

Solid Communities are connected to Solid School Systems, and solid school systems come from Distinguished Educators.

Here are the current issues Oklahoman’s are facing and the future, unfortunately, does not look promising.  


• Emergency Certifications •

Oklahoma has a record high number of people that have obtained an emergency certification and are now “teaching” in this state. In 2016 there were 1,082, and as Dr. Garn stated, 1,000 have already been permitted for 2017. Approval for these certifications comes from the state Board of Education and requests have been made for every type of teaching position. The need though is particularly high for elementary, early childhood, science and math teachers. The leading area of emergency certification workers is in elementary education, where imperative fundamentals are taught.

The least prepared individuals are teaching foundational elements to an estimated 52,000 children in Oklahoma

I’m not insinuating that those with an alternative teaching certification placed in classrooms are incompetent and useless. But be honest with yourself, if the mental health field were experiencing this kind of downfall they aren’t going timg_6538o give me an alternative counseling certification and allow me to diagnose patients and provide therapeutic treatments. Why is this an acceptable practice for our youth in Oklahoma?

Accreditation standards and higher education requirements are in place for a reason, and that reason is educators are building the future, and we want that future to be the best for our children. Yet, Oklahoma legislators have settled for a mediocre alternative. This is a problem!! 

• Despicable Teaching Salaries •

In Oklahoma, if you have a Doctorate and 25+ years of teaching experience you’re looking at about $46,000 a year in 80% of districts. In the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, just a short three-hour drive south, teaching salaries start at $50,000 to $52,000 annually. 

Let that sink in for a second… If a teacher in Oklahoma is the sole provider of his/her family, they now qualify for the free lunch program in the school they teach.

Teachers do not go into the education field to get rich, but for Christ sakes shouldn’t they be able to pay their bills at the end of the month? Should educators have to work two jobs to save for their own children’s academic future? This is a problem!!

• State Question 779 •

The November 2016 ballot had State Question 779 – a proposal to increase state sales taxes by 1% to generate an estimated $615 million dollars per year for education funding. Oklahomans, by a landslide, voted no.

Before making judgments, you should know that Oklahoma established the Lottery Commission and wrote into law that the money raised through the lottery would be used to elevate educational funding. The law specifically states that education funds could not be spent elsewhere and replaced by lottery funds. How do you think that played out?

As of last month, lawmakers believe approximately $10 million dollars is owed back to the Lottery Trust Fund. In total, Oklahoma is looking at a $900 million dollar deficit for the 2017 fiscal year. Can you blame the hard working people of Oklahoma for voting against 779? I can’t say that I do. I do see both sides of this double-edged sword, however. Teachers need a pay raise, but citizens are tired of paying for government failures. 

So what’s next? There’s talk about consolidating schools, more cuts in staffing, eliminating programs, and going down to a 4-day school week. There are negative consequences tied to all of these options, but no one seems to be asking the important question – What lies in the future for these children? What about the future of small communities and Oklahoma as a whole? 

If we think the government will fix this problem and that we can wait around for that to happen without experiencing long-term, irreversible damage then we’re in serious trouble. 

Find me a state representative that is as concerned about the standards of our public education system that a mother and father with multiple children in the system are. Find me a representative that is fighting for the rights of children and families that deserve a decent education and the same opportunities as surrounding states. 

You won’t. This is a problem!! 

Be sure to check back for the second half of this post. And, please like & share, especially if you reside in Oklahoma. 

25 thoughts on “There’s an Education Crisis Happening in Oklahoma | Part 1

  1. While not so bad here in MI I really believe the public school system is failing (I’m a former teacher). With more and more demands put on teachers and students (with less, and less funds) it’s sad, and I hope we can turn our education system around.

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  2. Why are teachers not valued? What they do not considered a contributor to children’s development? They’re just as important as doctors, nurses, lawyers, and all the top employment making 10x more than them. 😟 We have the same issue here in Canada.. if you don’t end up in uk or china to become an esl teacher, you’ll have to find remote areas like yukon to make any kind of money to help pay your bills. Its absurd!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is very interesting as I am a teacher in Nevada and we suffer many of the same issues such as overcrowding and budget coupled with overworked underpaid teachers. I believe we have fell to 50th in the nation and it is not hard to imagine why! It is really just sad because students are suffering, I wish I had all the answers, but I just keep doing what I can to ensure my students learn. It’s not easy!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have a bunch of teacher friends in a few states. It’s a very frustrating time for our educational system. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that technology, and easier access to better educational videos and lectures will help restructure how and what our kids learn, but that is many years away.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I live in Illinois, and we are having so many of the same discussions. No one seems to completely understand what is really going on in the school systems, though. We have schools with 30+ kids in classes; the school I work in is so rough that 6 teachers have quit mid-year, which is terrible for our students. Schools are consolidating LIKE CRAZY, cutting teachers, cutting programs. And no one seems to stop and really consider what that means for our childrens’ futures. It makes me so sad to hear Oklahoma is facing the same types of crises.

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  6. I live in New York and got my teaching certification and degrees here. The qualifications for teachers are so high here, it is crazy for me to hear about the emergency certifications! You have to have a teaching certification to even substitute teach where I live. Teacher salaries are definitely an issue as well and something that needs to be fixed!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. desperatemamas

    I guess no matter where you live in the world you face some kind of challenges when it comes to the education system. There’s no perfect place.

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    1. I feel like that’s the problem though. We’ve accepted a mediocre process and year after year the standards continue to be lowered. As a parent and professional working with kids, I think we owe them more.

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  8. I’ll take it one step further…and distinguished educators are empowered by outstanding administrators and are given an opportunity to be involved in the policy making on a local, state and national level. Loved the TED talk. Having been an educator for over 15 years, this is a matter close to my mind and heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. amh2006

    This is so disheartening, but I can’t say things are much better here in VA. I am blessed to be in a city that has slightly higher pay for teachers, but we are facing major shortages and often cannot find subs to cover us when we are sick. (or our kids are sick!) The workload is increasing by way of data collection and analysis and there have not been raises since I have been in the system. I love my job but I agree-it’s not outlandish to want decent pay. I work hard as an educator and I also have a hard time with the “emergency certification” issue. I am in debt up to my eyeballs for a Master’s degree that I will now never pay off due to my low salary! It will take a lot to push me out, but we have lost too many good teachers due to problems like these. I hope changes happen…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. kage2015

    Consolidating schools have already started where we live. Unfortunately that hasn’t solved the problem. Education program certainly needs to be overhauled.

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  11. Wow – I had no idea. I live up in Massachusetts and am an educator myself. It’s hard to understand the scope of these differences when you don’t read about them (or listen as you did!). Thanks so much for sharing this! I will be sharing these with my other educators

    Rae | Mindful Rambles

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All of the points you raise should be serious concerns for anyone who has children in OK schools. It’s so good that you are keeping yourself informed and sharing that information with others. That way you can be the best advocate for your children’s education.

      Liked by 1 person

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