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Many Oklahoma school districts to close for rally

Updated:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ School districts in Edmond, Muskogee and Mustang are among those across the state that will close on Feb. 12 to allow teachers to participate in a rally at the state Capitol to demand more money for education.

Reductions in state revenue have forced Oklahoma schools to eliminate more than 2,800 jobs since last year. Some educators have requrested a temporary 1-cent increase in the sales tax to help fund schools.

School districts will also close in Broken Arrow and Woodward, where school buses will be used to take people to the rally.

``We have an active coalition of groups that are working to get everyone involved,'' Woodward Superintendent Bill Denton said. ``We are taking school buses and are charging $5 a head because we don't have the money to pay for that in our budget.''

No final decision has been made on whether classes will be held on Feb. 12 in the Tulsa School District, the state's largest, but more than 45 percent of its teachers have signed up to take a personal leave day to attend the rally.

The Oklahoma City school district, the state's second largest, also has made no final decision.

In Lawton, the third largest school district in the state, with over 18,000 students, Superintendent Barry Beauchamp said the final decision on holding school Feb. 12 has not been made.

``We are torn,'' he said. ``As professionals we need to be in the classroom, but also as professionals we need to emphasize the need to take care of education.''

State Rep. Larry Ferguson, R-Cleveland, has said teachers should ignore the rally and instead should concentrate on educating young people while letting legislators work on school funding problems. Carolyn Crowder, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said teacher jobs are in jeopardy and large public rallies for education have been helpful in the past.

The school district in Atoka will stay open. Only one of its teachers, Brenda Willis, will be making the 150-mile trip to the rally.

``Teaching is more difficult now than ever before,'' said Willis, who teaches high school Spanish. ``We are concerned about our job.''
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