Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not represent the views of Babble.
“These kids are the reason we are walking. We are walking to show the world that it is time to put these children first and make sure the future of Oklahoma will be amazing.” — This is what Laurissa Kovacs, an educator from McAlester Public Schools in Oklahoma, tells Babble about why she is in her state capital today. Why she is walking away from her job, and instead, walking in protest. Kovacs and thousands of other Oklahoma teachers are walking today to take a stand and demand better for their public schools.
According to CBS News, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation just last week granting teachers pay raises totaling approximately $6,100, or 15-18%. “But some educators say that isn’t good enough and walked out,” the outlet reports. And that’s because, as Kovacs and so many other teachers are struggling to convey, this walkout isn’t about a raise.
“The bill was more of a slap in the face for us,” Kovacs tells Babble. “They hoped if they gave us teachers a raise we would back down. But we aren’t doing this for the raise. We need funding for education. The raise means nothing if we are still going to be forced to use it on supplies for the kids.”
And it is precisely because of that drive and determination to do better for her students that Laurissa Kovacs penned a heartfelt Facebook post last week that’s now going viral.
“I’ve had to cut back on the fun, ambitious, and exciting projects literally because there isn’t enough room on the table for 32 kids,” Kovacs wrote in her post. “I literally do not have enough chairs for 32 students. This photo is something every one of my students is familiar with. This chair, or cheek-pincher, is what my students have to sit on. Most of the chairs in my room look like this. Once they get to this point it’s only a matter of time before the bottom goes completely out.”
Chairs. This teacher is walking because her students don’t have enough safe chairs to sit in.
“Today a student actually carried his chair with him to sharpen his pencil because he got in early enough to get a good chair,” her post continues. “I’ve gotten a few new students and had to throw a bottom-less chair away so tomorrow I’m having to bring in a couple of folding chairs I have here at home. That’s why I’m walking out.”
So yes, Oklahoma’s teachers have been given a raise, but what about their students? “They deserve CHAIRS,” Kovacs demands in her post. “They deserve a quality education just as much as kids in surrounding states.This is about so much more than a raise. It’s about the future of Oklahoma. That’s why I’m walking out.”
One of the most important jobs a teacher has is making kids feel like they matter. And how can they do their jobs of properly teaching and ensuring that kids stay motivated if they don’t have the tools and supplies they need?
“We have teacher in Oklahoma trying to teach history with books that still say George W. Bush [is president],” Kovacs tells Babble. “We have math teachers using books with steps missing because books are falling apart. As an art teacher I don’t have the resources to show 160+ kids how to make Native American inspired clay pots or teach them how to use acrylic paint.”
CBS News reports that Oklahoma actually ranks 47th in public school revenue per student when compared to other states — and that’s nearly $3,000 below the national average. And according to the the National Education Association, its average teacher salary of $45,276 ranks 49th.
Considering these stats, I suppose seeing Kovacs’ picture of the broken chair isn’t all that surprising, sadly. But thousands of teachers are marching on the lawn of the state capitol today, hoping to change that. They are saying they’ve had enough. And they are demanding better for their students. Because all of America’s kids deserve an education, adequate school supplies, and chairs that aren’t broken.
So keep fighting, teachers of Oklahoma. Your students see you and hear you. Hopefully your government will, too.