THE OKLAHOMA TEACHERS’ STRIKE: “WE DID IT FOR THE CHILDREN”
By Carol Rushton
For two solid weeks in April, public school teachers in Oklahoma deliberately shut down public schools across the state in protest. Although the state legislature had passed a $6,100 per teacher pay increase, which was signed by Governor Mary Fallin, the teachers still staged a “walkout.”
Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, responded to the pay raise by calling it “incomplete.” In an interview to CNN, Priest explained, “This package doesn’t overcome shortfalls caused by four-day weeks, overcrowded classrooms that deprive kids of the one-on-one attention they need. It’s not enough. We must continue to push for more annual funding for our schools to reduce class size and restore more of the 28% of funds they cut from education over the last decade” (CNN, March 31, 2018, “Oklahoma Approves Teacher Pay Increase But Union Says It’s Not Enough”).
Teachers’ unions have complained about low pay and overcrowded classrooms for years, claiming they need more funding for schools and higher salaries. Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, repeated this claim at one of the rallies at the state capital in Oklahoma City. “We stand for children, and that is why teachers in West Virginia, in Kentucky, and in Oklahoma are standing up for our future.”
Bill O’Reilly, the former host of “The Factor” on Fox News, revealed that although the Catholic nun at his school had at least 60 children to educate in the 1950s, she managed to do a pretty good job. O’Reilly and his companions all eventually graduated being able to read, write, and do basic arithmetic, amazingly without the technology so many schools and teachers depend upon today.
My father grew up during the Great Depression in the 1930s. You would be hard pressed to find a worse place to grow up in that time period than Southeast Oklahoma during the dust bowl years. At least one of the schools he attended only had one room. The teacher had to educate a wide range of ages, from first to eighth grade.
Somehow in these destitute and impoverished circumstances without the aid of calculators and laptops, my father learned trigonometry. He also learned to read and write. After serving in World War II, he attended a little university in Oklahoma City, graduated with a degree in accounting and business administration, and went on to became an author of hundreds of books and have a successful career as a Christian radio broadcaster.
Today, American children overall have hundreds of advantages that my father, Bill O’Reilly, and others like them who were born before the advent of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs lacked. Sadly, they are less educated than their forebears.
According to statistics compiled by the faculty at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon (education.cu-portland.edu) and published on March 5, 2018, over 30 million adults in our country cannot read, write, or do basic math beyond a third-grade level. What does the faculty attribute this to? Since 46% of white students can read at a twelfth-grade level while only 17% of black students and 25% of Latino students can do the same, it must be because of racism and oppression.
If you think I’m kidding, all you have to do is read the report, “Crisis Point: The State of Literacy in America” at https://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/education-news-roundup/illiteracy-in-america/. The following is an actual quote from the report.
“To truly understand the state of literacy in today’s United States, we need to go back to the beginning. Literacy has long been used as a method of social control and oppression. Throughout much of history, the ability to read was something only privileged, upper-class white men were allowed to learn. School wasn’t free like it is today. Education was provided to only a select few, and this preserved a class system that kept the poor powerless and the rich powerful – a practice . . . that continues today.”
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Slavery has been outlawed in the United States for over 150 years; Jim Crow laws have been outlawed for over 50 years. With free public school available to every citizen in our country, there is no excuse for anyone not being able to go to school and receive at least a rudimentary education.
Oklahoma teachers protested that the lack of education funding in the state was hurting their students, and that this was the central reason for their refusing to go to work. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the United States now spends well over $10,000 on education per student per year. That amount far exceeds what was spent on education even when I was attending public school, much less for those like my father growing up in the 1920s and 1930s, and Bill O’Reilly and his contemporaries in the 1950s. More education funding does not equal a better education.
It may shock Weingarten, Priest, Oklahoma teachers, and you to know that teachers unions are not concerned about educating American children. In his farewell address to the National Education Association on July 9, 2009, Bob Chanin, former general counsel for the NEA, revealed the real reason for the union’s existence:
“And that brings me to my final, and most important point, which is why, at least in my opinion, NEA and its affiliates are such effective advocates. Despite what some among us would like to believe, it is not because of our creative ideas. It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children. And it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees.”
So, it’s all for the children, huh? I have a one word response: BALONEY.