Oklahoma's Education System Needs Help
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Politics and Activism

Oklahoma's Education System Needs Help

Changes need to be made for the students, for the teachers and for the future of Oklahoma.

Oklahoma's Education System Needs Help

Imagine a school district that barely pays their teachers the state minimum wage. The bare bones budget of this school causes class sizes to be huge, resulting in students sitting on the floor because there are not enough desks or space for everyone. Advanced placement classes are not options for the students, and they cannot take their books home to study because only a class set is available. Teachers are forced to buy their own supplies, and near the end of the year, they must conserve printing. The school district also can’t afford substitute teachers, so teachers who need a day off have to find other teachers and assistants to cover for them. They feel guilty about pulling teachers from their own lessons, though, so they end up not calling in sick or going to their dentist appointment. This situation seems extreme, and improbable. In reality, all of these scenarios play out in school districts across Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma education system needs serious revamping. Budget cuts in the state have led to a lack of funding, resulting in teacher shortages, bigger class sizes and inadequate amounts of supplies. In Tulsa, the starting salary for a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree is only $32,900. In surrounding districts, like Claremore, the salary is even smaller. In Springdale, Ark., just an hour and half from Tulsa, first-year teachers with a bachelor’s degree make $46,816. Moving just an hour and half makes a teacher a difference of $13,000 per year in an area with a similar cost of living. Because of this, the teaching profession is no longer competitive in Oklahoma, and the state loses teachers to neighboring districts.

Oklahoma is also one of the only eight states that do not follow the Common Core Standards Initiative. Instead, Oklahoma administers its own state tests and grades schools on an A to F scale. All students are required to take these tests, even learning disabled kids, skewing results. “Bad” grades and test results reflect negatively on the teachers. The only way to improve these grades is to up the number of students that pass the test, and to do that, teachers must teach to the test, not to a curriculum. The state curriculum has become strategies to pass the state test. What kind of education is that?

Should taxpayers keep supporting these budget cuts that negatively impact the education system, the future of Oklahoma students will be grimmer than the scenario I described at earlier. They will lose their school experience. Arts, music and sports might lose funding. With state tests dictating the curriculum and a lack of advance placement classes, students will graduate knowing how to pass the state test, not how to think. Eventually, the state will lose enough teachers that class sizes will be out of control and no one will be able to expect individual help or attention.

Education is one of the most important factors in how a person develops and where they end up in life. Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of incarcerated women, drug use, child abuse and teen pregnancy. All of these things could be combated with a well-funded, strong education system. Going to school creates accountability, discipline and a sense of self. Participating in school sports promotes teamwork, provides positive role models for students and gives students a place to be that isn’t going to get them in trouble. I know it seems easy and makes sense to cut budgets by taking money from the education system, but it really is not the best course of action. It may be hard to approve upping property taxes in a conservative state, but at the end of the day, changes need to be made for the students, for the teachers and for the future of Oklahoma.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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