Last year, thousands of teachers walked out of classrooms to protest low salaries and years of underinvestment in public schools. Two budget deals later, teachers have now received more than $7,300 in combined pay raises and are leading the region in total compensation. This year, the Legislature also threw in another $74 million in classroom funding for good measure.
Like many Oklahomans, I think that is a good thing. I want teachers to be fairly compensated and for schools to be adequately funded. But I can’t help from feeling angry that so much has been overlooked in this process, starting with students and families, particularly students and families of color or of limited economic means.
In fact, if there is one defining feature of our current public school system, it is race-based inequity. If you are a black or brown child in a traditional (non-charter) public school in the Oklahoma City metro area, you are six times more likely than a white student to attend a school with an “F” grade. Meanwhile, white students are six times more likely than their Hispanic peers to attend an “A” school and 11 times more likely than a black student to attend an “A” school. Simply put, white children in Oklahoma City are going to high-performing schools; minority children are not.