Oklahoma Teachers 'Disheartened' After Failure To Pass SQ 779
TULSA, Oklahoma - Oklahoma voters shot down state question 779, which would have increased the sales tax by one penny, raising $650 million a year for public education.
One day after the election, teachers met for the monthly Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association; and when union leaders gaveled in the day's meeting, the mood was somber and tears filled some eyes.
Many teachers said they are now fearful the public education system here will only continue to get worse.
“I'm really still in a state of shock because I really thought that this would go through," Jennifer Thomas said.
Oklahoma voters struck down State Question 779 on Tuesday, meaning the state sales tax will not go up and teachers won’t see a pay raise.
Shawna Mott-Wright is vice president of the Tulsa teacher's union. With no new money coming to fund public education, she fears more teachers will leave the state.
“Disheartened, sad, not valued,” she said. "Oklahoma doesn't care about me, so I might as well go somewhere else."
That was a concerned echoed by other teachers.
"Teachers tell me every day, 'I don't know if I'm going to keep doing this. I'm working three jobs, I don't sleep at night,'" teacher Tandra Morris said.
Thomas said, "A lot of my new teachers have to work a second job."
Thomas is a new teacher mentor and said she sees a lot of young teachers leaving for money; she said if she was new, she might, too.
"But, if I was a younger, newer teacher, I would look elsewhere," Thomas said.
Without voters providing more money for education, Mott-Wright said it's now on state lawmakers to make sure kids can get a quality public education.
"Get on it,” she said. “Our children deserve better. Your highly-qualified teachers, some are already gone, more are going to leave. Do you really care about the children of Oklahoma?"
She said teaching is a profession of hope, and so she won't grow tired of fighting for a better education for kids.
Mott-Wright said, "We will continue to teach the future, those of us who stay. What else can we do, let our kids down?"
She said she has been fielding messages and calls from teachers in her union, all trying to determine if staying here will be affordable.