State Representative's remarks spark controversy, students respond

Updated: Mar. 13, 2018 at 6:36 PM CDT
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CACHE, OK (KSWO) – Students and staff are speaking out after a comment made by a State Representative comparing the potential teacher walkout to extortion.

In a nearly 20-minute long video recorded Monday, Representative Jeff Coody made the comments to a group of students and teachers from Cache High School.

Here's the full 20-minute video, which was posted on YouTube.

Coody told 7NEWS that he regretted the word choice of extortion, but stood by his opinion that the current requests by teachers are unreasonable and impossible to accomplish.

As for the students and staff Coody was speaking with, they say they were appalled by what Coody said and hope controversy it's already raised can also spark change.

"We're already suffering, our class sizes are thirty, our teachers don't have any money to do anything. Me personally, I'd be completely AP student but our district doesn't have money to do that. We have people that are certified that have no business teaching what they're teaching, we have people working at McDonald's and mowing lawns to make ends meet," said Cache High School Senior Hannah Wellman.

Wellman instantly began questioning representative Coody after what she felt were extremely offensive comments.

"I was deeply offended by that. I really love my teachers, they're not walking out against us, they're walking out for us and trying to make our education better," Wellman said.

Wellman said she was initially shocked by Coody's comments.

"I was amazed he would boldly say that on tape and that he would say it in front of teachers and students. To me, that's a comment that if you make it you make it in private about how you feel, not on tape in front of the people you feel this way towards," Wellman said.

Students from Cache were at the capitol meeting with Coody because they wanted to get a closer look at how the legislative process works. Wellman's teacher, Arletta Stewart, said she was also caught off guard by Coody's comments, but said she was proud of how her student's responded.

"I could not be more proud than I was yesterday with these kids. I've had some of them for 2 years, we talk about how to think critically, to answer and ask questions analytically. They did wonderful," Stewart said.

During a phone interview Tuesday afternoon, Representative Coody said he regretted the words he used to make his points, but said he stands by the message. Teacher pay raises are important, but shouldn't be paid for on the backs of taxpayers.

"I think it's one thing to make demands on the legislature but it's another thing to come up with reasonable solutions. I still believe that a teacher pay raise is possible. I'm very committed to that, I'm committed to education. But I don't want to saddle the taxpayers with a massive tax increase that would unfairly burden them and do little to help the teacher pay raise problem," Coody said.

The students also spent time Tuesday watching our lawmakers on the senate and house floors voting on bills. Wellman said that was also an eye-opening experience. She says it was discouraging to see our lawmakers on their phones and seemingly not paying attention while they were voting on bills. She said it was nice for her and her classmates, many of whom will soon vote in their first elections, to see how things work at the capitol.

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