The following was written by a dear friend who is an educator in Oklahoma. As soon as I read her letter to our lawmakers I asked if I could share it here as her voice needs to be heard. She has asked to remain anonymous to protect her family, job and students.
Dear Oklahoma Lawmakers,
I am a mother and a teacher. My children attend public school in Norman and I am proud to support our public education system. I also work part-time as a tutor. I have a master’s degree and am a certified teacher. I make $18 per hour. And I love what I do.
I see children from truly tragic situations. Children who do not have access to a single book in the home. Children who are still learning English as their second language. Children who are not properly fed, clothed, or cared for. Of course they struggle with reading. LIFE is a struggle for them. Last week, I gave one of my students my lunch. It was not yet lunch and the child was crying because he missed snack time in his class and he hadn’t been fed all weekend. Another child struggles because her family is currently homeless. Another has parents who work extremely long hours just to make ends meet. These stories are all too common.
I see children like this every day. They are funny, creative and brave. Yet they are often angry and I can’t blame them. I’m angry too. They are capable but they need your help.
I don’t have to tell you the statistics as I’m sure you are well versed in them. What I can tell you is all about are the children. I can tell you their names, their birthdays, their strengths, their fears, their dreams and their favorite candy. I know because I often spend my planning period and my own money buying it for them. I can tell you what their favorite books are and what calms them when they are feeling anxious or sad. There are so very many Oklahoma teachers doing the same. And yet there are also many others who are moving to states where they will actually be compensated for their talents. Or taking jobs in corporations, or selling scented candles. Or anything else that actually will pay the bills and not break their hearts.
There are human beings behind these myopic and seemingly arbitrary decisions. They are the future decision makers of our great state. Don’t we want to keep it great? Or are we going to condemn ourselves to failure?
From a purely practical point, do you have a plan on how to support all of these children when the school system fails them?
It seems to me that an investment now is a return later. Cut your own salary if those “big cuts” are necessary. Cut the governor’s. I know that there are hard choices to be made right now. I also know that leaders lead by example. Only bullies pick on the small and voiceless. I believe that you can be the leaders we need and I hope and pray that you will act to stop these devastating cuts. Thank you in advance for your support.
An Oklahoma parent and teacher