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Oklahoma teachers say they're still scraping by after state question 779 fails on Election Day

Posted at 8:30 PM, Nov 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-10 09:54:54-05

Oklahoma teachers won't be getting a pay raise anytime soon. Tuesday night, voters rejected state question 779, a new tax that promised teacher raises.

Now, many educators worry about the future of Oklahoma's education system.

If asked, most teachers say they thought it would pass. More than $400 million a year would have gone to school districts, raising teacher salaries by at least $5,000. Now, one Claremore teacher says she'll continue to worry about providing for her students.

"They can't make ends meet here, we have teachers that are close to food stamps," Claremont Elementary 3rd grade teacher Jamie Massey said. 

It's a realization that's hard for Massey.

"I've taught here for seven years and in that time we've not had a raise," she said. 

Massey says she couldn't even form words when she learned state question 779 didn't pass. It would have raised the state sales tax by one cent to increase funding for public education. It's a price, Massey says, she was more than ready to pay.

"Really it's about keeping highly qualified teachers in our state," Massey said. "They can go to any of our border states, any of them, and make a lot more money and there is really nothing to keep them here."

She says constant cutbacks force her to do tasks that aren't in her job description.

"We've been asked to start doing all the janitorial work for our classrooms," Massey said. "We clean our toilets, we vacuum our floors, we do all of that."

But some teacher's weren't on board with the state question. Social media blew up with debate over the issue.

One Facebook post shows some teachers concerned Oklahoma would have the highest sales tax in the U.S., which also comes out of teachers' pockets when they buy anything. With the state ranked 49th in education, they say they want a different solution.

A group of teachers gathered in Massey's classroom to watch the special message from Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist.

"We will do something about this," Ed.D Gist said. "Together we will absolutely make a change." 

The superintendent says she doesn't want teachers to lose hope and she especially wants them to remember they're loved.

"It's so important for you to know that we care about you," she said. "I love you and I appreciate you so much."

The tax would have gone into effect July 1, 2017.

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