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United Voice: Impact Of Teacher Walkout On Minority Communities Significant

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

On this 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we're beginning a new series.

We've joined all local media to give Oklahoma a United Voice in promoting a healthy dialogue on race. News 9's Jessi Mitchell shows how the teacher walkout is having a greater impact in minority communities.

For parents who are single or working more than one job to provide for their children, paying for childcare while school is out simply isn't an option. And community leaders say this applies to a disproportionately large population of black and Latino families.

Kids in low income neighborhoods are statistically more likely to struggle to succeed.

Former elementary school principal Lee Roland said that's due not only to fewer tax dollars rolling in, but also a higher turnover rate among teachers.

He's seen it firsthand.

"The children that need education the most are the ones that are suffering the most," Roland said.

He retired from administration to reach even more youngsters in the community, and he's also searching high and low for young black men to be role models in the classroom.

"A lot of our kids see people that don't look like them and don't relate to them, so this is absolutely incumbent upon us as a state, as a city to be very intentional in regards to finding black teachers and black male teachers especially," Roland said.

He's among the thousands of educators rallying at the state Capitol this week, hoping to speak to legislators on behalf of the kids who don't have a voice.

But for their parents, the school closures could mean extreme hardship. That's why the Urban League and other organizations have opened their doors to provide childcare, close by, for free.

"Our typical family is one that lives below the poverty line or at the poverty line, so they don't have the additional resources that they would be able to have a week-long camp or two or three extra days that they can pay for," said Dr. Valerie Thompson, president of Urban League of Greater OKC.

Thompson predicts more families will turn to them to help the longer the walkout continues.

They still have room for 100 more children here, but Thompson said they'll need monetary donations as well as bottled water to keep the functioning the best it can.

The Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City is located at 3900 N Martin Luther King Avenue. To connect with the organization online, click here.

From News 9 reporter Jessi Mitchell:
I'll be bringing you more United Voice stories throughout the year. We hope to continue highlighting the inequality that affects under-served communities in our area and spark a discussion that leads to better understanding. If you have an idea for a story, I'd be happy to hear it.

News 9 is part of a local initiative that brings all of our local media outlets together to give Oklahoma a United Voice in promoting a healthy dialogue on race. To see more stories, visit UnitedVoiceOK.org.

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