As teachers prepare to walk out of their classrooms as a way to bring their financial concerns to the front burner, Yukon’s superintendent said he supports their efforts … if there is something to protest for.
Dr. Jason Simeroth said Monday that a proposal by the Oklahoma Education Association to call its members to strike in an effort to get a raise from the state Legislature doesn’t have a target.
Simeroth said there is not a bill in the legislature to protest for or against.
“As a district, we place a high priority on our staff, and an even higher priority on our students,” Simeroth told the audience attending Monday’s school board meeting.
He said that is one of the things that makes the Yukon school district such a great place to teach.
“I think of the things that makes Yukon such a phenomenal place is the level of concern, love and passion for our kids,” he said.
“The conversation about a teacher walkout has to center around our students and what’s best for our students,” the superintendent said.
That means protecting the time that students have in the classroom.
“We are not of the mind set to just walk out when there is nothing to walk out for,” he said.
Simeroth said if at some point the legislature can develop a bill that provides a sustainable revenue stream and includes a teacher pay raise, he would support their efforts.
But at the moment, that doesn’t exist, Simeroth said.
He also pointed out that there is more than teacher pay raises to be considered.
Among those considerations are children who might not have a safe place to stay during the day, and whether they would have a source for meals.
“We have kids who won’t have safe place to stay, or food to eat. They won’t have a chance to graduate if we have some sort of massive walkout that goes on until who knows when.
“We have to think about our students, and look and find alternative ways to get the legislators to take us more seriously,” he said.
In most cases, Simeroth said, teachers did not get into their careers for the money.
“We are about the kids,” he said. “This is what we got into this for, and it is what we will stay for. But, at the same time, something has to be done, or else there won’t be a teacher left in the classroom,” he said.
Meanwhile Alisha Priest, a former Yukon teacher, is president of the Oklahoma Education Association.
Thursday she announced that lawmakers have until April 1 to come up with a budget that includes a $6,000 raise this year and a $2,000 raise for each of the next two years for teachers.
The proposal also calls for raises for support personnel and state employees.
“This is what we are asking for. Our teachers deserve nothing less,” Priest said.
If the agreement is not reached by April 1, Priest said teachers will walk out of classrooms on April 2.
She said an agreement can be reached for growth revenue.
“Where there is a will, there is a way,” she said.
“When we invest in public education, we invest in the future of our state. … This is about kids. We have to invest in the future of Oklahoma,” she said.
Simeroth said Thursday that school officials are working with teachers to develop a plan if the teachers do walk out.
“We support our teachers. We understand. They are under appreciated,” Simeroth said.