OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla._All eyes were on the Oklahoma Capitol building Monday morning as 35,000 teachers, parents and students cried foul on the state of Oklahoma education.
According to the Oklahoma Education Coalition, Oklahoma public schools are operating with less money than any other state, despite rapid growth in the past six years. Now districts from all over the state are banding together calling for change.
The big players in Monday's rally were Tulsa and Broken Arrow public schools, two of the state's largest public school systems who took the day off to storm the capitol. But among the hundreds of other districts, southwest Oklahoma was strongly represented. Everyone from Lawton, Duncan, Altus and even smaller districts like Comanche and Geronimo were there to help send the message that students and teachers deserve better.
"It makes me embarrassed. I was born and raised in the state of Oklahoma, I would not want to live anywhere else, but it embarrasses me when you have a story about the effects of funding in education that's in the Washington times...that's sad," said Terri Mitchell, a teacher for Lawton Public School.
Monday morning, Lawton Public School teacher, Terri Mitchell, proudly stood among the 35,000 who agreed that Oklahoma schools deserve more. But Lawton representatives weren't the only familiar Texomans in the crowd.
"I think it's important as a leader of the school district that they understand that I'm supporting them and I believe deeply in what we're doing and I believe deeply that there needs to be a change," said Jimmie Dedmon, Superintendent of Walters Public School.
The rally was planned for a purpose. Oklahoma's oil drilling taxes are set to expire, giving the state over $300 million dollars in additional revenue. Local schools are hoping that money can now be used for better education in southwest Oklahoma.
"It's difficult to find new teachers when we do have openings because with Burkburnett being 30 miles away and Wichita Falls being 45 miles away, it's hard to draw new teachers to our district where we don't pay near what they do in Texas," said Dedmon.
It's something even students are starting to take notice of.
"We don't have enough money to buy supplies, buy textbooks, buy anything. We just don't have enough money to do anything," said some of the students there.
"More and more is being put on the teachers by having to provide the supplies that are needed. I'm very proud. I'm very proud of the profession of the teachers. I think that we do a lot with a little. We're just tired. And we want our voice heard," said Mitchell.
The rally was organized by the Oklahoma Education Coalition at the request of thousands of teachers. The group believes spending money on education creates nearly twice as many jobs which results in you guessed it: economic growth.