Superintendent shares his thoughts on planned teacher walk out

MARLOW, OK (KSWO) - Marlow's Public School Superintendent is sharing his thoughts on the planned teacher walkout over raises and funding for education.

After approving a 12.7 percent pay raise for teachers late Wednesday night, the Oklahoma Senate turned down a nearly $450-million dollar revenue bill to fund them.

Superintendent George Coffman believes there has to be ways to generate funding for school as a whole. He said while teacher pay raises are important, he believes the money should be given to the school, and they should decide what the money can be used for.

He also added the district and the community will support teachers and support staff workers if they walk out.

Coffman said funding for education in Oklahoma has been struggling since 2008. That's why he doesn't blame educators for threatening to walk off the job.

"Its going to be tough on kids, it's going to be tough on our community, but in Marlow we have had pretty much complete support from our community," said Coffman.

Coffman believes pay raises for teachers are important, but finding funding sources for districts across the state is at the top of his list.

"A lot of people want to betray it as salaries for certified teachers and salaries for support staff workers , but that's just one part of it. The biggest portion of this thing is trying to bring funding to schools," said Coffman.

Coffman believes lawmakers should find other sources besides oil and gas.

"Oklahoma has made its life on fossil fuels and it can not be on the only way money is generated there has to be more stable ways to pay for schools," said Coffman.

Coffman said cutbacks in funding have already impacted students in Marlow.

"This years 8th grade kids have never seen a revenue surplus. From the day they started Pre-K to the time to today they have never seen a revenue surplus. Well that's a problem," said Coffman.

While he is grateful for the support of teachers and the support staff he believes there can be more done inside the classroom if there was more money.

"Science projects, our STEM projects, textbook purchasing, there is all kinds of activities and things we could have done," said Coffman.

The education plan that failed on Wednesday night only included salary increases for teachers, not support staff workers. Coffman says they have 103 certified teachers  and 57 support people that work as a teacher assistants, bus drivers or cafeteria workers.

Coffman knows first hand how critical these workers are.

"Those support people are critical to the success of our school. I am a product of it. My mother ran the cafeteria and my dad ran the maintenance," said Coffman.

Coffman said the support staff workers are on either on a ten, eleven, or twelve month contract. If a walkout were to happen, they would still get paid.

"If its four days then we are going to make up four days and that's how those support people will make their money back because they are going to have to work those four days," said Coffman.

Coffman is hoping lawmakers can pass a plan that works for teachers, support staff workers, and schools as a whole before April 2nd.

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