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More OK Teachers Expected To Leave After Proposed Raise Fails

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TULSA, Oklahoma -

Educators returned to class Tuesday after a proposed raise for Oklahoma teachers failed to pass the Legislature Monday.

Teachers said one of the saddest things about the failed raise is that, at this point, students are aware and worry they won't have any good teachers left if something isn't done.

2/13/2018 Related Story: Breakdown Of 'Step Up Oklahoma' Plan Vote

"Can we do this? I still have optimism, but it takes everybody working together,” said Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, Donna Gradel. “I think a lot of teachers are discouraged."

Gradel is one of the many teachers who returned to class Tuesday after the state failed to pass a proposed raise for teachers.

She said, despite the funding challenges she and other teachers face every day, her Broken Arrow students are still thriving.

"The cause, and the purpose, and the outcome and working with young people has always been a priority for a teacher that's stayed in a classroom for any length of time, as opposed to the amount of money you're earring," Gradel said. "That being said, it's no excuse to not earning a decent living, particularly for our younger teachers."

Gradel has been teaching for 30 years and said while she's discouraged, she's still hopeful.

"I mean, we have the perfect opportunity now to go from a very low place and a very low standing to a fantastic one, if we can turn this around," she said.

Shawna Mott-Wright, vice president of the Tulsa Teacher's Classroom Association, is sharing the feeling of discouragement.

"I don't understand why children are not considered our most precious resource, and, in turn, teachers are our most precious resource. That doesn't compute for me," she said.

Gradel said while she understands why some of the measures haven't passed in recent years, she worries that if nothing's done, students in Oklahoma won't be ready for the workforce.

Something Mott-Wright agrees with.

“Teachers are the only profession that create every other profession," she said.

Mott-Wright said she's heard from 12 teachers who said they'd stay through the school year but planned to leave the state.

The Tulsa Regional Chamber also expressed frustration, saying Monday night’s failure to keep the Step Up Oklahoma plan alive puts our state's competitiveness at risk.

Chamber president Mike Neal said in part, "We strongly encourage legislators who voted against the bills to support an end to our budget crisis. We must address Oklahoma's fiscal instability before our state suffers irreparable damage."

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