Claremore school board tables action on district participation in OEC funding rally (The Daily Progress)

By Mark Friedel

The Claremore Board of Education voted to table any approval regarding teacher and administrator participation in the Oklahoma Education Coalition (OEC) funding rally March 31 at the state capitol in Oklahoma City.

As funding cuts toward common education continue statewide, teachers, administrators and patrons are calling on legislature to prioritize state funding in education, and restore per pupil funding to prerecession (FY08) levels.

Claremore Classroom Teacher’s Association (CCTA) President Jennifer Esau, an advocate of the coalition, addressed the school board about the amount of teacher and staff response she has received throughout the district.

Esau said as an early childhood special education teacher, she understands the negative impact of funding cuts on student academic achievement.

“Members from the CCTA have met with teachers and staff from each school and there is a good response in the amount of supporters.”

Esau was unable to provide an estimate of the number of Claremore teachers who endorsed the resolution to participate in the rally, however, she said there is definitely some interest.

School board members agreed to table approval of the proposed OEC resolution until a “roundabout” number of supporters can be determined.

“We can declare March 31 as a professional day, or we can organize a representative group to send on behalf of the district,” said Superintendent Michael McClaren. “The district is unable to pay for means of transportation to the rally. Bus transportation would be up to the teachers.”

Board member Patrick Gotcher said he is all for participation in the rally, however, he would like to see a rough estimate of how many supporters plan to attend the event before any decision is made to cancel a day of learning in the classroom.

Esau said an informal survey could be issued to each school to get a better idea of how many faculty members plan to make the trip.

Board members unanimously voted to table the item until the next regular meeting on March 10.

According to the National Education Association, Oklahoma is ranked 49th in the nation when it comes to teacher pay, and state appropriations to public education are $230 million below prerecession levels.

Oklahoma school districts have experienced the most severe state funding cuts in the nation, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Per student funding of Oklahoma’s K-12 education formula has decreased by 22.8 percent since 2008, and teachers and support personnel have not had a state funded salary increase in seven years.

In the most recent fiscal year, funding decreased another 1.2 percent, or $33 per student. The total amount for FY14 increased some, however, it is not enough to cover rising enrollment in schools and increased costs due to inflation, according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute.

Legislatures continue to enact unfunded and underfunded mandates — such as the implementation of the National Common Core State Standards and the new A-F scale — throughout local school districts that are required to implement the mandates without appropriate financial support from the state.

Hundreds of schools have had to eliminate academic and student enrichment programs because of funding cuts.

McClaren said some programs have been impacted by the decline in state aid, including elementary art, which has been cut from three of the Claremore schools due to lack of funding.

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