I participated in the teacher walkout back in April. I was there 8 of the 10 days. One day I had to get some homework done for grad school. The other day I had to rest because the sun made my lupus flare up. I took a chair and spent as much time at the Capitol as I could each day. I talked to a few representatives, but I honestly don’t like engaging in fruitless endeavors. If the legislators were going to listen, they would have done it years ago. All they had to do was wait us out, which they did. They knew we would go back “for the kids” and continue participating in our abusive relationship (I wrote about that after the walk out[JW1] ).
We did get a small raise (that still does not make our state competitive), but that happened before the walkout. The walkout was about funding schools rather than continuing to starve them. The walkout was about calling on legislators and citizens to show they actually care about education and the future of the state. The walkout demanded action instead of pretty and empty words (thoughts and prayers, anyone?!). But, as stated before, the legislators simply waited us out. Teachers had no long terms plans because they thought such a widespread initiative, that garnered national attention, would shine a shameful spotlight onto the situation in Oklahoma. Teachers finally gave up because students were caught in the middle, and teachers were not prepared to laysiege. We left with pithy slogans and promises: Remember in November!
Throughout the two-week walkout, people rallied around us with free products, with their presence, and with their sentiments on social media. Everyone was pumped…things would finally change in November! It seemed as if people were finally and genuinely tired of Oklahoma being in last place for education. They were tired of being the butt of jokes. They were tired of Oklahoma mostly making national news for bad events (for example, in June, Oklahoma became #1 for incarceration). “Remember in November” was the rallying cry.
I was reeeeaaaalllllllllyyyy cautiously optimistic, which is my norm. But, I also know the true nature of people. Change is difficult and takes commitment and time. Most people don’tchange because they prefer being comfortable to actually working on improving. Life in the cave, although you’re chained and living in shadows, is much easier than clawing your way out and being blinded by the light (even if the blindness is only temporary).
As soon as Stiff won the primary, I knew it was over. Just as I knew the same when Trump won his primary. Stitt may not be a career politician, but he knew exactly what buttons to push and what strings to pull to make people dance. And dance they did…making him win with 54% of the votes. 54%. Think about that. He won because he is an “outsider” and a businessman—just like Trump. But anything is preferable to a (shudder) “career politician.” (On a side note, there’s a huge difference between someone who makes a career serving the public as a politician and one who makes a career taking PAC and lobbyist money as a politician.)
But, wait…maybe Stitt has some open and progressive ideas about education. Maybe he cares about education because he knows the future of our state hinges on educating future citizens. He does say he’s a product of public education. But, he’s also publicly stated he would’ve voted against the teacher raise. But, he does have all these plans…but, he has no idea how to fund all these plans and take us to top 10. (From the bottom to the top in a few years…I may die laughing.) He has said he doesn’t agree with raising taxes (on anyone, including oil and gas companies), so I’m guessing he has some magic beans or maybe Fallin will leave her money tree for him.
Throughout the last few months, Stitt told us exactly who he is and how little he cares about public education. Hell, his kids don’t even attend public schools. Stitt is such a stereotype: White, male, “Christian,” wealthy, cishet. He’s a poster child for the GOP. You know they pissed their pants when he decided to run. Even politicians who should be busy running our country took time to attend a rally and endorse him. Really? They had nothing better to do than fly to little old Oklahoma and give the White dude thumbs up to some random guy who decided one day it would be fun to be governor (pretty sure Trump did the same with President). By the way, unless you have a strong stomach, do NOT read the comments made about Stitt.
But…teachers still had the support of the masses ringing in their ears, feeding their dreams, and fueling their fire. Teachers knew the public wouldn’t, couldn’t, abandon them this time. No one could be that ignorant and cruel. “Remember in November!” Surely the state wouldn’t fail teachers again. Surely the state would vote “for the kids.” We’d even made national news for something positive: record number of teachers running for office. The public loves teachers. Of course the public would remember…their memories couldn’t be that short, right?
Well, the public did remember:
- They remembered teachers love being martyrs and saints.
- They remembered teachers will do anything “for the kids.”
- They remembered teachers would probably have a bigger hassle finding other jobs and/or moving to other states. It’s easier to stay.
- They remembered teachers are pros at “making do” and using their own money for supplies or begging for products on DonorsChoose or asking for money on actual street corners.
- They remembered they might have to pay taxes to help support all those freeloaders and mooches who won’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps. *eye roll*
- They remembered they don’t actually want allkids educated—just the pretty, rich, White kids. Why would they pay money to educate kids they don’t even see as people?
- They remembered, and this is the most important caveat, they only vote for those candidates with an “R” after their name. (There were a couple exceptions where it seems like people simply voted against anyone who had ties to public education—even if that person ran as Republican.)
Seriously, the only real recourse left to teachers is deciding to stay or go. The public has already laughed in our faces and believes there will be little to no repercussions. They seem perfectly happy will an unprecedented number of emergency and alternatively certified teachers. Teachers are easily replaceable, even if Stitt has to hire people to act as teachers—what difference does it make?!
Ultimately, the citizens of Oklahoma, the ones who voted, showed their true colors on November 6th. I’m tired of being optimistic. I’m tired of waiting and seeing. I’m done giving chances. How much more will we take? Every election, Oklahoma shows us exactly how they feel about our situation: They want something for nothing. As the old saying goes, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”
And ultimately, I’m tired of giving it away for “free.”
[JW1]Link to the blog