The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

March 31, 2014

Teachers rally

Education Capitol protests funding cuts, no pay raises

ENID, Okla. — Thousands of people — many of them teachers — rallied Monday at the state Capitol for more education funding.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol estimated the crowd at around 25,000, including some from Enid and northwest Oklahoma. It was the largest rally at the Capitol in more than two decades. That’s an impressive number of people pushing for education.

Some school districts — notably Tulsa Public Schools — did not have school Monday so teachers could participate in the rally. Others, such as Enid Public Schools, allowed some teachers to attend.

Ideally, it would have been better for districts to not cancel classes for the rally. We like the idea of school officials sending representatives from their districts, but, then, the number of people at the rally would not have been so large.

How effective the rally was remains to be seen.

Educators want more money for education. According to the state Department of Education, appropriations for schools have dropped from more than $2 billion in fiscal year 2009 to about $1.8 billion this year. Enrollment has increased from about 654,000 to about 681,000 during the same period.

Teachers also are seeking a pay raise, which would be the first in seven years.

However, the money may not be there.

House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, has said Republicans in the chamber want as much as $125 million in new education funding. That could be tough to do, as lawmakers will have $188 million less to spend this year on all government programs.

How the goals stated at the rally mesh with the money situation will be something that gets worked out by lawmakers.

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