When I was a high school student in the early 1980s I couldn’t have imagined having police officers or Department of Human Services social workers in the building. Now that I teach high school, I can’t imagine doing without them.
But it’s happening.
I’ve already discussed here how we’re down to one officer for our high school, 9th grade center, middle school, and alternative school (about 1,300 students). I’ve since learned he also covers the elementary school just north of our campus, too. This allows kids to roam freely at all hours of the school day; there’s simply nobody available to round them up when they skip class. It also allows for acts of violence like the one that occurred outside my room a few minutes after the bell signalling the start of a class yesterday.
That’s bad, but I’ve talked about that already. I learned recently that Oklahoma’s cuts to the DHS budget is costing us our social worker at the end of this school year. This is our second year to have Katrina in our building and I simply can’t say enough about what she’s done for our students.
I have gone to Katrina countless times about students who need help because a parent, step-parent, boyfriend or girlfriend was physically or emotionally abusive. I’ve taken her kids who were bruised, who were hungry, who needed clothes, who were homeless, who were thinking about suicide. She’s gotten help for them. She literally has been a life saver.
And now, as we’re facing a reduction in force that will lead to bigger class sizes, more work per teacher, and less individual attention per student, we need someone like Katrina more than ever. It’s likely she won’t be there, though. What will happen to those kids? Who will they turn to? Who is going to have the time and energy to care for them?
Not the legislators who refuse to end subsidies for petroleum and wind energy companies. Not the congressmen and women who are considering deregulating schools so cash-strapped administrators can do away with high-priced teachers (who are now the lowest paid in the nation) and hire minimum-wage-earning ex-convicts to save money. The governor won’t be reflecting on their fates as she stares into the new reflecting pool that will be built at the Capitol.
Every seat in the Oklahoma House of Representatives is available this November. About half of the Senate seats are, too. We cannot afford to allow the same kind of people to continue to run our state. Vote for candidates who will diversify our budget and who see the value in a strong system of public education.