Each month, The Oklahoman's editorial board recognizes a contributor to Your Views for a letter that exemplifies a timely, fair, accurate and cogent viewpoint. Thad Leffingwell of Stillwater is the honoree for letters that appeared in Your Views last month. His “Broken promises” letter was published Feb. 6.
Meet the writer:
Thad Leffingwell is an associate professor of psychology at Oklahoma State University. His letter about the broken promise of teacher bonuses was inspired by his family. His wife, Kim, is a speech language pathologist who is due to receive the annual $5,000 stipend. Their three children, Claire, Quinn and Josie, attend Stillwater public schools. Stillwater has more National Board Certified Teachers than any other school district in the state; Leffingwell is concerned that without the bonuses, they will lose these teachers and the schools will suffer. Originally from western Kansas, he graduated from Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan., and obtained his master's degree from the University of Arizona and his Ph.D. from the University of Washington. Leffingwell, 42, has lived and worked in Stillwater since 2000. Reinstatement of the bonus program is part of a supplemental appropriations bill advancing in the 2012 legislative session.
Oklahoma statutes make a promise to teachers who pursue national board certification. In return for teachers who invest their own time and money pursuing the highest level of professional development and stature, the state promises to pay an annual $5,000 bonus stipend. Other highly trained and credentialed educators, speech language pathologists and school psychologists are also promised the bonus.
Approximately 4,000 teachers in Oklahoma schools are promised this bonus each year. These individuals and families count on this payment. They factor it into annual family budgets. They spend it in their communities to support local businesses. They put it in college savings accounts for their children. They spend it on supplies for their classrooms and gifts for their students.
Oklahoma's Republican-controlled state government simply walked away from this obligation. Jan. 31 was the day that more than 4,000 board-certified teachers, speech language pathologists and school psychologists would have gotten the $5,000 owed them by the state. Those checks won't arrive. IOUs won't arrive. Will these teachers “occupy” the Capitol? Will hundreds call in “sick?” No. They will show up for work. They will educate, encourage and inspire their students. They'll help children overcome the stigma of stuttering or disability. They'll serve children in crisis and catastrophe.
Thad Leffingwell, Stillwater