When I was in high school, there was a brief discussion about possibly sending me to Cascia Hall Preparatory School, an expensive private school in Tulsa. The biggest draw for me was their orchestra. It meant that I could play my cello all the time in a real orchestra. Collinsville High School could barely afford a band, let alone an orchestra with stringed instruments. Stringed instruments where instruments of the rich. This discussion of attending Cascia Hall was brief for a couple of reasons: the price of tuition and being held back a year. Cascia Hall would have automatically put me a year behind. My parents really were not sure how they were even going to pay for my college education if I didn't get scholarships. They would have found a way to make it work if I had really wanted to go there, but it would have been a strain on all of us.
I stayed with public education and played my cello in a youth orchestra once a week. When I started my senior year in high school, I took classes at the local junior college to give me a leg up when I started college. The education I received at Collinsville did not prepare for college. Don't get me wrong. It was a good enough education. My teachers (most of them) did their best to teach us with the resources they had available to them. My sophomore history book was my sister's sophomore history book. I know this because she'd written her name inside it. She was five years older than me and the book had not been new when she was a sophomore. The students at Collinsville were used to books with torn covers, a missing page or two, and even a bit of mold growing on the inside. It was not uncommon to not have enough books to check out to all of the students. Meaning, you only got to use the book when you were in class. There was never enough money for new books, band instruments, choir uniforms or even for building renovations. Many of my teachers had second jobs. There was never a time when I was not hawking something for band or choir. We would not have had any of our arts programs without our fundraising efforts.
This has not changed in almost twenty five years. Many teachers who teach in Oklahoma schools have second jobs in order to make ends meet. They are still teaching with books that are torn and moldy and out-dated. They are still teaching in buildings that are in desperate need of renovation. The teachers of Oklahoma are still doing the best job they can with the resources available to them. The protests are not just about a more than well deserved pay raise. It is about finally making the state of Oklahoma actually value an education for their children. I am a success story of the Oklahoma education system only because I had teachers who pushed me to take those college classes and attend biology camps. When they could not provide me with information and resources that I needed, they found programs outside of the school that could. This does not make Oklahoma teachers unique or special...because they are teachers. This is what teachers do and it is not an easy job.
You will never be able to convince me that education is not one of the most important parts to our infrastructure. It deserves more funding than our prison systems and our military. This is why I stand by Oklahoma Teachers.