“If you really think the teachers are walking out just for pay, you really need to change your mindset and go sit in a classroom for one day. You will realize these teachers care more about their students than themselves.” – Former MPS student Maelea Guynes
Stoppage to begin April 2 if education funding not increased
MORRIS, Oklahoma — The Morris Public School Board met March 15 at the middle school auditorium to consider work stoppage for school employees.
Work stoppage is being considered in schools around the state of Oklahoma to protest education funding.
The Oklahoma Education Association, a union for Oklahoma teachers has called on the state legislature to increase teacher pay by $10,000 over three years, increase support personnel pay by $5,000 and the restoration of $200 million in education funding.
OEA has called for a teacher walkout beginning April 2 if the Oklahoma Senate and House of Representatives are unable to increase education funding.
“I’m here tonight to ask Morris community to get behind our school,” MPS Superintendent Chris Karch said. “This is about Oklahoma education. This is what we’re fighting for.”
He said there is a lot to consider.
“It is a very difficult decision,” Karch said.
Karch said for years the State of Oklahoma has been decreasing its financial support for the public schools. He said some parents and community members might not have noticed the decrease.
“It’s because our teachers do a great job of filling in the gaps,” he said.
Karch said MPS along with other schools throughout the state have been doing more with less for years.
He also said the meeting was not about the teachers, it was about the students.
“I believe it is time for us to take a stand,” Karch said. “It’s time for us to say enough is enough.”
Karch said he is calling out the state leaders.
“There are things that they decide is more important than our kids,” he said. “They are putting other things ahead of the kids in Oklahoma.”
A survey was recently distributed to the community and Karch gave the feedback from the survey.
He said one question was asked several times about what they (community members) could do to help teachers. Karch had an answer for them.
“Don’t just tell us that you are with us,” he said. “Can you imagine every person in Morris committed to calling up there (Oklahoma City) every single day, sending an email every single day. This small community in Oklahoma could actually make a difference.”
Another question asked was, ‘What happens to our children during the stoppage?’
Karch said the students would have to stay home.
“We are not going to be having school. There will be no classes,” he said.
Karch addressed another issue in the timeframe of the work stoppage. He asked the school board for eight days without having to make up time at the end of the year and to support the teachers in the stoppage.
“Anything over eight days will have to be made up,” he said.
Karch said if there is no resolution from the state legislature, there is a school board meeting on the sixth day of the stoppage for further discussion.
“I think we are going to know pretty quick on what’s happening,” he said. “They (legislators) are scrambling up there.”
Karch said student grades will be frozen during the stoppage.
He said when everyone returns to school, it will pick back up. Students will be getting the required time in class to address academic requirements for grade promotion and credit earnings.
Community members asked in the survey about state testing. Karch said this is a concern for all faculty and workers at MPS.
“State testing can be linked to our federal funding,” he said. “I told our teachers we can’t survive if we lose our federal funding.”
Karch said federal law requires each state to annually administer exams to all public elementary and secondary students throughout the state.
“If Oklahoma fails to administer the required assessments, the U.S. Secretary of Ed(ucation) may withhold federal funding until the state becomes compliant,” he said.
Karch said the American College Testing is state administered and he spoke with Morris High School Principal Bucky Ewton about days they can hold the testing.
“There are two dates that we can do this and we are going to go ahead and do the April 24 date,” he said. “We will have that date regardless even if for some reason we are still out of school.”
Graduation will still be held May 18 for the seniors.
“Even if it is just a ceremony and diplomas are issued later,” Karch said.
Another issue he addressed for people in attendance was extra-curricular activities.
“We are going to continue with our high school extra-curricular activities,” Karch said. “That will be through the stoppage.”
He said one of his concerns is how children will be able to eat during the stoppage.
“Some of our kids rely on the meals they get from school,” Karch said. “We are looking into the possibility of using some of our child nutrition funding.”
He said there are some things that hopefully will get approved to help in that matter.
“We are also looking into some partnerships with our community to assist us, and us assist them,” Karch said. “If there are kids out there that are hungry they can get some meals throughout the day.”
Morris is a rural community and there are many students do not live within the town limits.
“All I can say is this, I’m pretty sure that if we (MPS) found out, no matter where they lived, that there was a kid that needed a meal, I got some people that will make sure that kid gets some food,” Karch said.
After Karch spoke, a video message created by two students was shown to the audience. After, community members were allowed to take the microphone and speak to the school board and audience.
School board clerk Philip Ward spoke about everyone needing to speak with their legislators to get monies embedded for schools.
“That means their money comes out first and stays the same,” he said. “It does not fluctuate with all the politicians.”
He also said that he is not for a ‘walkout.’ He said there are two big districts that are pushing for the work stoppage and they need the little schools to help.
“When all this is over they are going to forget about the small districts,” Ward said.
He said he has been pushing the subject to legislators for three years to get the funds embedded for the schools.
Former student Maelea Guynes addressed everyone on the work stoppage and what educators go through.
“My mom has been a teacher my whole life,” she said. “I don’t remember a time that I was not in a classroom, whether it was for school or after school because my mom stays to help your kids.”
Guynes said she remembers her mom staying the extra hours to grade papers and paying for supplies for the students.
She said teachers do more for the students than a lot of parents and community members think.
“If you really think the teachers are walking out just for pay, you really need to change your mindset and go sit in a classroom for one day,” Guynes said. “You will realize these teachers care more about their students than themselves.”
After members of the audience spoke, School Board President James Allred presented the issue to approve or disapprove the work stoppage.
“It has been moved and second to approve the Morris School Board of Education to support the teachers in the statewide school work stoppage,” Allred said.
The school board approved work stoppage with a unanimous decision with work stoppage to begin April 2.