Mandatory Credit: Photo by Sue Ogrocki/AP
What Reader’s Digest used to call life in these United States:
Inside the Capitol, teachers — many wearing matching, custom-made T-shirts — crowded hallways, waiting in long lines that stretched down the corridors to bend the ears of lawmakers. A group of teachers from Sallisaw, near the Arkansas border, packed into the tiny office of state Rep. John Bennett (R).
They lamented how the state had repeatedly shifted academic standards, but without furnishing teachers curriculum guides.
Bennett, who had a stack of New Testaments and a biography of Robert E. Lee on an end table, said he was sympathetic to the teachers’ needs. And though he’s reluctant to raise taxes, he said he will fight to get schools more money. He offered some ideas for how to go about raising additional revenue — rooting out Medicare fraud, for example.
He pledged to push his colleagues to follow through on their promises.
“If they try to reneg on this next year, I’m going to blow this place up,” Bennett told them.
First-grade teacher Dolly Dunlap jumped in: “I’ve got the match.”
Raylynn Thompson, 16, a top student at Muskogee High, said her history textbook is nearly 10 years old — stopping at the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama. She is a serious student but said the crumbling classrooms make it difficult to learn. Last week, when her AP U.S. history teacher was going over a lesson on President John F. Kennedy, rain seeped through the ceiling and the foundation. Rather than evacuate as the classroom flooded, the class rearranged some desks and forged on.
It’s important for readers to consider that in some Oklahoma districts children enjoy four-day school weeks. The state ranks forty-seventh in public school revenue per student. Florida ranks thirty second. The average salary for a Miami-Dade County teacher? About $46,000. Matters are as dire in Kentucky, where the Republican legislature passed and the governor signed a bill slashing pensions for future teachers.
I’m one of those Reagan babies who grew up thinking members of public sector unions had no business walking out — the sinecure was reward enough. To see past one’s own nose, etc. Working at a public institution has a way of clearing the mind of obstacles.