by Mary Mélon
The tragic situation that now faces the Oklahoma City Public School System, and other districts across the state on April 2nd, 2018 is becoming very real and has far reaching consequences for the students. Public union strikes are always difficult. Teachers’ strikes are particularly so, because the ones most harmed are their constituency, the students. Since the public schools have added numerous programs and activities, the question becomes what to do. Sport programs, special events and security come to mind, but by far the most important is food.
Since the school board has voted to support the walk out, Oklahoma City Public School Board Member Jace Kirk, along with the Oklahoma City Public School Foundation Leadership Team, has been meeting regularly to develop plans for athletic programs, testing requirements and school security. The students enrolled in career tech programs also must be addressed, as must after-school events and staff pay. To ensure that our kids are taken care of and have adequate food, a complex plan to provide food services through the child nutrition department is being developed to allow school busses to carry food to a variety of locations throughout the district. Providing one meal a day is not going to fill the void, or the stomachs of our kids, who are used to having breakfast and lunch at school, at no charge, through a federal program. It is something, however, and anticipated usage is high.
Community partners like Rotary, the City of OKC, United Way of Central Oklahoma, Regional Food Bank, YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, Urban League and many others are stepping in to assist with additional food and resources. There are also many in the faith-based community making plans and ready to assist. These partners are mobilizing and ready to use valuable resources to fill the gaps for our kids and families. These agencies serve our community in many ways every day of the year and certainly have ongoing needs for these resources. But, the Oklahoma Standard says that our community helps in time of need, so these partners are there.
Teachers need a pay raise and the fact that it has come to this should not be forgotten. We can easily keep this top of mind at our polling places and by encouraging those in our circles of influence to do the same. Increasing funding for education is also on the plan. We, as a state, must continue to invest in our children. We need a highly functional public educational system. Oklahoma can’t be prosperous without a healthy and educated citizenry. It is incumbent on all of us to do what we can to mitigate this current issue and keep future issues from happening. Thanks to all those community partners who are keeping the spirit of the Oklahoma standard alive by pitching in to help the kids.