Teachers, administrators and parents from across Oklahoma are taking their fight for more education funding to the steps of the state Capitol on Monday.
Representatives from the state's largest school district, however, will not be among them. Oklahoma City Public Schools is not participating in the rally, which is expected to draw thousands to the statehouse.
Interim Superintendent Dave Lopez said Friday he didn't think it made sense to forfeit additional instructional time by closing schools, which district leaders in Tulsa and Broken Arrow are doing so teachers can attend the rally.
“We're trying to squeeze in every hour of instruction before (state) testing in April,” Lopez said. “And we've already missed a lot of instruction time because of school closures caused by severe weather.”
Mostly, the decision was a philosophical one, he said.
“I'm not sure that if we were to make the sacrifice of that instructional time ... I'm uncertain that this is going to be a persuasive way to advocate for more funding,” he said.
City district teachers can use a personal business day to participate in the rally, but had to request the day off, spokeswoman Tierney Tinnin said Friday.
Since 2008-09, funding for public schools in Oklahoma has been cut 23 percent or about $200 million. Statewide student growth over the same period has exceeded 30,000 students.
Edmond Public Schools, which is serving 2,700 more students than it did in 2008-09, is facing $4 million in budget cuts in the upcoming fiscal year.
“It's not an overstatement to say that we are in a funding crisis — perhaps the worst that I have seen in my more than 30 years of education,” said David Goin, the district's superintendent.
In Edmond, free shuttle buses to the rally will be available from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday. The buses will be available at Remington Park, south of Interstate 44 on Martin Luther King Avenue, and at Tinseltown Theatre, 6001 N Martin Luther King Ave. A volunteer will be on each bus to provide more information.
Additionally, several Edmond parent groups are sponsoring buses that will caravan to the rally from Frontier City Amusement Park, leaving at 9:15 a.m. Monday.
Classes will be held Monday in the Edmond school district. If a parent gives permission for their child to attend the rally, the student's absence will be excused, said Susan Parks Schlepp, school spokeswoman.
Several other metro-area districts are participating in the rally, including Putnam City, Norman and Moore.
None of those districts are canceling classes, but hundreds of teachers plan to be at the Capitol, officials said.
Moore Public Schools is sending 100 teachers and administrators along with five district patrons to the rally. The district, spokesman Jimi Fleming said, worked with the Moore Association of Classroom Teachers to develop a plan that would allow district representation without closing school.
About 100 teachers in the Norman school district are taking leave to attend the rally that is provided in their collective bargaining agreement with the district, spokeswoman Shelly Hickman said. Transportation to the event, she said, will be privately funded.
Putnam City Schools Superintendent Fred Rhodes and more than 40 district teachers will attend the rally, but the district is not providing bus transportation, spokesman Steve Lindley said.