Monday, October 10, 2016

VOTE 2016 - Oklahoma's Teacher Candidates

"Affected by budget cuts and testing, dozens of Oklahoma teachers are running for office" PBS NewsHour 10/4/2016


SUMMARY:  Oklahoma ranks 45 out of 50 states in spending per student.  It's home to overcrowded classrooms and more than 100 districts that have approved four-day school weeks.  Now, more than 40 teachers who are tired of not being heard are trying to change things themselves -- by running for office.  Special correspondent Lisa Stark of Education Week reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  In some parts of the country, it's not just the presidential race on voters' minds.  State elections are taking center stage in some places, too, like Oklahoma, where education is at the forefront of the ballot.

Teachers are upset over spending cuts and what they see as a political assault on public education.  They have decided it's time to take matters into their own hands.  A record number of teachers are running for seats in the state legislature.  All of this comes as Oklahoma faces tough budget decisions.

Special correspondent Lisa Stark of our partner Education Week reports from Oklahoma as part of our weekly segment Making the Grade.

LISA STARK, Special correspondent:  Football is king in Oklahoma, so it's no surprise the Norman High School homecoming parade shuts down the town's main street.

There's candy for the kids, cheerleaders, and athletes, of course, and enjoying the ride, Oklahoma's teacher of the year, whose day job is deciphering algebra for ninth graders at Norman High.

This is Shawn Sheehan's sixth year teaching.

So, you love being a teacher?

SHAWN SHEEHAN, Oklahoma Teacher of the Year:  I do.  I love it.  I love working with kids.  I really do.  And I love math.  That sounds super nerdy, but I do love math.

LISA STARK:  So, it may seem odd that Sheehan, Oklahoma's top teacher, is ready to hang up the white board.

SHAWN SHEEHAN:  I made the decision to run for state Senate.

I think what it is, is, we have is a lack of representation at the state capitol.  We have folks up there who don't really understand what's going on in education and what's going on in our communities.

LISA STARK:  He's not the only one who feels that way.  Sheehan has joined more than 40 educators who have filed to run for the Oklahoma legislature.

Why do you think so many educators are running this year?

SHAWN SHEEHAN:  I think, in this state, educators are finally fed up.  And it's almost like a sense of, we don't have anything to lose at this point.

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