TPS Superintendent, Dr. Deborah Gist, says House plan is encouraging, but not enough

TULSA -- A glimmer of hope is coming out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives for teachers.

A historic bipartisan house plan to fund teacher raises and state employees is now headed to the senate.

Tulsa Public School’s superintendent, Dr, Deborah Gist, said while the plan is a step forward, it’s really just a correction to years worth of budget cuts. She said the proposal for teacher pay raises is really only getting teachers back to where they were in 2006.

However, it goes without saying that teacher’s voices have been heard.

“Our teachers have stepped up and said enough is enough,” Dr. Gist said.

For years, public education in Oklahoma has been chiseled away piece by piece.

“We have sustained very very dramatic cuts for more than a decade in Oklahoma to public education,” Gist said. “On an education system that was already underfunded, so we were already not funded adequately."

Now, a bright spot is shining through the Oklahoma House of Representatives after a revenue package passed for teacher and state employee pay raises. The measure supports a $5,000 pay raise for beginning teachers with a bachelors degree and a nearly $8,000 raise for teachers with 25 years of experience.

“What it doesn't address is the next two years of increases that were part of that overall request,” Gist said.

Teachers said they're grateful for the plan, but their demands are not just about teacher wages.

“What it did and didn't do is fund a very small portion, which is not adequate to restore some of those cuts,” Gist said. “(Such as) the class size issues, the number of adults we need to have in the building, counselors, school resource officers, safety and security…”

However, teachers said the measure is a start and a plan is in place to walk out if need be.

Meanwhile, the movement organized by teachers is gaining national attention, some wanted, and some, not so much.

“On the one hand, I feel incredibly encouraged that the attention is finally being paid to something we've known for years has been a huge problem,” Gist said. “On the other hand, I think about the hundreds of teachers we are going to need to recruit to bring into our district. I worry a little bit about making people feel like this is not some place they want to be.”

That's why, although the bipartisan House plan is a stepping stone, teacher's said it's not enough to compete with other districts in the country.

With six days until the possible teacher walk out, those advocating for better pay and public education still plan not to show up to work April 2. 

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