Thursday, March 26, 2009

OEA Lobby Day:SB 834

Over three hundred OEA members attended the OEA Lobby Day at the Capitol. Pictured with our members are Representative Mike Jackson, Senator Jim Wilson and Representative Mike Brown.

The focus of the day was SB 834, the deregulation bill that will turn all of our local school districts into charter districts over a six year period.

OEA/Teachers Lie

Some of the legislators had a new twist to tell our members. Besides the Republican party line of districts shouldn't have to follow "unfunded mandates" many of our members were told that "OEA lies" to them and in another instance, a legislator tried to recruit OEA members to a competing organization.

Our members did get angry, but not with me--the OEA--the 8th grade teacher from Stillwater--and all of our other teachers and support professionals who make up the OEA--they got angry with their legislators and they are going to take that anger back home with them and share it with their peers.

Unanswered Question

What would you be doing differently to impact student learning that you aren't able to do now???????????????????????????????????

There is nothing but silence from Republican Legislators, superintendents and school board members when they're asked that question.

For coverage of the event check out these sites: Oklahoman KSBI Joplin Globe.

Listed below are my remarks at the Lobby Day press conference

Good morning and welcome to the Capitol.

I’m Roy Bishop, President of the Oklahoma Education Association. Hundreds of school employees are here today to show their commitment to a great public school for every child and to let our elected leaders know that SB 834 is bad for schools.

I know how difficult it is for them to leave their students, especially at this time of year, so I want to thank them for being here and let them know I appreciate their commitment to Oklahoma education.

We are here today for the children of Oklahoma. The greatest impact on our students is to have a quality teacher and the tools and resources to help children learn. SB 834, the deregulation of our schools, will negatively impact our kids in a variety of ways including larger class size, diminishing teacher certification and quality, and it will also allow districts to ignore caps on administrative expenses with less money going to the classroom where our students need it the most.

If this bill passes, high standards for our students and a quality nationally known teacher preparation system are in jeopardy, and will be left to the political whim of local school boards and administrators.

An example of that political whim took place just a few months ago. A young teacher from a small western Oklahoma school came to the Capitol, at the request of a lawmaker, to tell about the number of days his students were out of the class for school activities.
His reward for honestly exposing the rampant abuse of the 10 day activity rule for students was to be called into the Superintendent’s office, have his job threatened, and then be placed on a disciplinary plan for improvement. How is it good for kids that a quality teacher is placed on a plan for improvement for speaking out about poor administrative practice?

Oklahomans can expect more of the same with the passage of SB834.

Oklahoma has a nationally known teacher preparation system. According to “Quality Counts”, we are ranked in the top 10 nationally in “Teacher Quality.”

For too long we have struggled to keep our good teachers in Oklahoma. SB 834 will allow for already low salaries to be reduced and will put a premium on hiring low cost non-certified teachers. This will be at the expense of our students because the number one determinant of student success is the quality of the teacher in the classroom.

The proponents of SB 834 state that these reforms are needed to allow local boards and administrators to put changes in place in their districts.

There is nothing today, or in the past, that would have stopped a school district from making changes it wanted to make. Our current deregulation law does just that. If they have a program to impact student learning, why haven’t they tried implementation?

SB 834 will also allow local school districts to do away with the collective bargaining process. This takes away the only opportunity for teachers and support professionals to be heard. Why would they want to do that? Our working conditions are a student’s learning conditions--they impact student learning conditions.

And in Oklahoma, the collective bargaining law is only advisory; it allows the local school district to impose whatever they wish at the end of the process.

You’re going to hear a lot about not being able to fire bad teachers—that’s just not right and it makes me angry.

Existing law allows all districts to hire teachers on temporary contracts for 3 semesters. These temporary contracts have an ending date and no action has to be taken to end employment – it is automatic.

In addition, the existing law includes a 3 year probationary period where the district is required to provide reason, and notice, of non-renewal or dismissal. For probationary teachers, the school board is the final authority.

We should probably be asking what is wrong with an administrator who can’t decide if a teacher is “bad” during this 4 ½ year period when they pretty much have no restraints. Think about the impact on kids when an administrator doesn't do his or her job.

And finally, mark my words, if this deregulation bill passes, it will be even easier for Superintendents and Boards of Education to mismanage school funds. One only has to look at the Marble City fiasco to see the impact of mismanagement and the impact that lost money had on kids.

For all of these reasons, and many more, SB 834 is bad for kids, bad for teachers and support professionals, bad for education and bad for Oklahoma.

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