Schools change schedule for education rally

Ponca City Now - March 11, 2015 7:55 am

The Ponca City Public School Board of Education approved a change in the school calendar to allow parents, teachers and others concerned about education funding to participate in the Education Rally on March 30.

The rally will be held at the Oklahoma State Capitol. This year’s rally will consist of two sessions — a morning session for visits to legislative offices inside the Capitol, and an outside rally at 12:30 p.m.

On the current school calendar, May 8 is designated as a snow make-up day. The board changed that date to a regular school day and designated March 30 as a snow make-up day. There will NOT be school on March 30, but school WILL be in session May 8.

“People ask me all the time if last year’s rally was successful, and my answer is absolutely," School Superintendent Dr. David Pennington said. "Not only did we get a temporary change in the third grade retention law, but we also got $40,000,000 in new dollars for public education. What we did not get was legislation providing a long-term solution to our education funding problems. However, it has changed the discussion at the Capitol. For the first time in a long time, members of the Legislature are talking about public school funding, and there seems to be an understanding that the funding cuts we have received are affecting our classrooms and are causing young people to abandon education as a profession.

"Talking is not enough; we need legislative action. Even in a difficult budget year, our Legislature can make commitments giving parents, students, and teachers hope there will be a better future,” he said.

This year is the 25th anniversary of HB 1017.

"It breaks my heart to think we are exactly in the same spot we were 25 years ago – overcrowded classrooms, no standards, 49 th in the nation in teacher compensation, and unable to attract young people to our profession," Pennington said.

"The citizens of this state stood tall in 1991 and demanded the Legislature fix our education system. As a parent of children who were still in grade school when HB 1017 was implemented, I can tell you the legislation made a difference. It is now time to resurrect our educational system for our next generation of children,” Pennington said.

The goals for this year’s rally include a long-term plan to improve teacher compensation for regional competitiveness, and policy changes to strengthen and sustain the teacher pipeline. Here are some current facts:

Facts:

  • Oklahoma started the 2014-15 school year about 1,000 teachers short.
  • Oklahoma has teacher shortages in rural, suburban and urban areas throughout the state and in nearly every grade level/subject area.
  • Oklahoma has approved 500 emergency teaching certificates for teachers who are not yet fully qualified in the area they are teaching.
  • Oklahoma has 40,000 more public school students than in 2010, but fewer teachers.
  • Oklahoma’s average teacher salary is more than $3,200 below the regional average and the lowest of surrounding states.

Solutions:

  • Increase teacher pay to the regional average.
  • Establish policies/incentives to recruit students into colleges of education.
  • Establish policies/competitive compensation packages to keep teacher graduates in Oklahoma.
  • Streamline certification process for out-of-state teachers who are highly qualified and want to teach in Oklahoma.
  • Ease financial restrictions for retirees who want to return to the classroom.
  • Establish policies to support new educators in their first three years of teaching.

Another goal of this rally is common-sense testing, Pennington said. They are recommending increasing instructional time and directing more resources to the classroom. Oklahoma spends more than $17 million a year on state and federally mandated tests. State and federal laws require Oklahoma to administer 26 tests each year. Solutions they are recommending include:

Solutions

  • Replace EOI test with ACT, increasing instruction time and decreasing testing costs.
  • Reduce state-mandated testing to include only those tests the federal government requires.
  • Improve the accountability system to support schools, improve instruction and inform parents.
  • Make permanent parent and teacher involvement in Reading Sufficiency Act retention.
  • Remove test scores from teacher evaluations and school grade cards.
 

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