For the past nine school days, teachers across Oklahoma have been at the state capitol protesting for higher wages and more funding for education. The marches are being orchestrated mostly by the Oklahoma Education Association(OEA). It is easy to see the distinction between the key messages of each opposing group when reading the news originating from either side. The message from the teachers and concerned citizens is clear: it is time for Oklahoma to prioritize education. The response from the state, however, is not as clear.
POLITICO details the general key messages from the teachers quite well. The teachers are asking not only for higher wages, but a dramatic increase in education funding, funding that has been slashed more than any other state in the last decade. In the recent days of the strike, teachers have shifted the focus more towards increasing general funding.
The stark contrast in key messages becomes clear when reading a FOX25 News article which details how the teacher walk-out is supposedly costing the state “thousands” every day. These costs are later detailed to be janitorial and maintenance costs of the capitol grounds, and an estimate for cost for security which the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety refused to endorse. These responses follow the theme of ad hominid attacks the state has had in response to the walk-out, as Gov. Mary Fallin had earlier equated the teachers to teenagers wanting a new car.
The teachers and citizens have had the more effective message, having remained mostly uniformed and peaceful. Supporters of the movement have stormed social media, used creative forms of striking, and argued with logic. The state has been silent, or too quick to attack.
If I were a public relations agent for the side of the teachers, I would suggest that they more heavily emphasize that the walk-out is more about increasing funding for their students than wanting raises. While Oklahoma teachers are certainly underpaid, the funding per-student in Oklahoma has dropped more than 20% in the last six years.
In an event which captures the eyes of the nation, the last response a government entity ought to have for its people is one of mockery. The state ought to accept responsibility for the lack of funding, rather than making excuses and attempting to flip the situation.