Teachers rally for pay raise at Oklahoma State Capitol

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- It is not the first time Tulsa teachers have waited for education changes on the legislative floor.

They say after not getting a raise for the last ten years... this time it's personal.

"Dear lord, how am I going to pay for college for my kids? How am I going to do this? How am I going to put food on the table? Which bill do I pay late this month so that I don't get cut off?" said Shawna Mott-Wright with the Tulsa Teacher's Classroom Association.

Tulsa teachers at the capital said they lost about a quarter of their staff last year. That's a number they expect to grow without changes in the system.

"Moving to Texas, moving to Maryland, or moving overseas because we just don't pay competitively. When you take those people out you're ruining the whole community and culture of your school," Skelly Elementary teacher Stephanie Jones said.

Some of these teachers have emergency credentials instead of a full teaching certification, which means they test after getting into the classroom. Many who've left the state are making up to $15,000 more than certified teachers in Oklahoma. But Tulsa educators say they largely gathered at the capital with concern for their students.

"You'll see an increase in behavioral issues. You'll definitely see a disengagement with learning. It does take a toll on kids when they don't have that attachment to somebody because they have substitute teachers coming in," Jones said.

The Tulsa Classroom Teacher's Association has noticed some students only work with emergency certified teachers throughout their entire academic careers.

"You have some students where just in one year of school does not have the same teacher the whole year through. They could have four or five different teachers," Mott-Wright said.

The Step Up Oklahoma package of bills did stir controversy after quickly coming to legislators through the help of business leaders, including those in gas and oil. Lawmakers also voiced concern over the sharp hike in income taxes, and the effect of higher taxes on industries such as wind, energy, and coal.

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