Teachers and administrators say the issues in Oklahoma education have reached a crisis level. On Monday they rallied for lawmakers to do something about it.
The thousands gathered on the south steps of the State Capitol say they had two main priorities they want addressed: Fix the teacher shortage and doing something about excessive testing.
By 12:30 p.m. Monday, the crowd had swelled to thousands determined to make their voices heard. Among them, Lora Burch, who is the principal at Taloga schools in Northwest Oklahoma.
Burch is also an English teacher, academic team coach, GT coordinator and sometimes even coaches basketball. She is also charged with finding good teachers.
“We've got three openings right now and it's very, very hard.”
The crux of the issue is teacher pay where Oklahoma ranks near the lowest in the nation.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Oklahoma teachers are woefully underpaid,” Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard told the crowd.
In addition, teachers say they burdened with excessive mandated testing.
“They need to realize what this is doing to our students, what this is doing for us in the classroom, that we feel stifled with this,” said Terry Anderson, an English teacher with Blanchard schools.
They are issues Anderson and most of her fellow teachers at Blanchard feel so strongly about they're here on a professional development day.
“I think it's just important they see us united together.”
The rally lasted an hour and half and included speeches from administrators, lawmakers, and even students.
Kiante Miles, a Mustang student, put his feelings in the matter into poetry.
“I am a student. These are my teachers. Will you please put us first?”
“It's a new day,” said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, who concluded the rally with her full support. “We will work tirelessly for our children regardless of what obstacles are put in our way. This is about results for kids.”
Hofmeister wrapped up her remarks by encouraging everyone to be an army and continue to make their voices heard through social media and other means.