Cherokee educators participate in teacher walkout
Thousands of teachers, students and supporters across Oklahoma gather on April 9 at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City to protest for better public education funding. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Many of those who supported the teacher walkout in April carried signs. Seen here is one sign relaying the lack of funding public schools in Oklahoma deal with. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Kellea Hampton, a Cherokee Nation citizen and fourth grade teacher at Jay Upper Elementary, holds her son and a sign as she stands in front of the Oklahoma Capitol on April 9 during a statewide teacher walkout for better education funding. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Sunny McDaniel-Alves, a Cherokee Nation citizen and sixth grade teacher at Westville Public Schools, third from left, stands with a group of Westville teachers and supporters on April 9 during a teacher walkout for more public education funding at the Capitol in Oklahoma City. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHEONX
OKLAHOMA CITY – After nine weekdays of rallying for increased public education funding, the Oklahoma teacher walkout officially ended April 12. Planned by the Oklahoma Education Association, thousands of educators, along with students and supporters across the state, began marching on the Capitol on April 2 to pressure lawmakers for adequate funding.
According to the Associated Press, Gov. Mary Fallin signed a $6,100 pay raise into legislation for teachers in March, their first increase since 2007. However, teachers said there was more that could be done for their students and schools.
Cherokee Nation citizen were among the educators rallying in Oklahoma City, including Kellea Hampton, who teaches fourth grade at Jay Upper Elementary. She said she saw a “powerful and positive impact” from the walkout.
“We got the momentum from West Virginia. Now we’re sending (it) to Kentucky and Arizona. Education is not valued in America like it is in other countries. If you think about the Buddhists and other cultures, educators are in the top tier with lawyers and doctors. It’s just sad that we don’t value education,” Hampton said.
She said teachers “would have looked bad” if they accepted a partial bill that wouldn’t fully fund education. “I miss my students, but I know that this will be beneficial for the upcoming years, and I think if we wouldn’t have done the walkout they would have never taken us seriously,” she said.
OEA officials said support of the walkout secured $479 million for teacher and support staff raises and educational funding. But teachers say the funding isn’t enough for what’s needed.
Sunny McDaniel-Alves, a CN citizen and sixth grade teacher at Westville Public Schools, said teachers at her school don’t receive classroom budgets due to lack of funds. She said better funding would not only help with supplies but also for classroom conditions students endure. “We want to see funding in our schools, so it’s not raining in the high school senior English classroom, so there’s not mushrooms growing on the ceiling, so we have books that aren’t falling apart and books that aren’t older than our students, and we would like to finally like to get rid of the temporary trailers that our classrooms are in that have been there for 20-some odd years.”
With no further negotiations being met for increased funding, OEA officials ended the walkout.
McDaniel-Alves said she feels defeated by the walkout’s end but would continue to fight.
“I love my kids, and I will continue to fight for them however I can, and I will continue to teach them to reach their potential as productive citizens. The fight hasn’t ended, not for me,” she said. “The polls are one way, and I will encourage my community to do the same. We will also continue to let our current legislators know how we feel by continuing to communicate with them.”