On Tuesday, Oklahoma voters will finish the task of determining which candidates will face off on Election Day in November. Nearly a dozen educators are among the candidates in run-off primaries, and the following six are members of the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA):
House District 26
Bruce Bushong, English teacher at Shawnee High School, Shawnee: “I never thought I would leave the classroom but then I roamed the State Capitol for a week talking to legislators during the teachers’ walkout. The lack of leadership and responsibility convinced me that I should run for the legislature.”
House District 41
Jennie Scott, fourth-grade teacher at Garfield Elementary, Enid: “Our legislature has prioritized handouts to a few at the expense of the many. Our communities are feeling the effects of that policy. We can and must do more to support our children and their educators.”
House District 43
Crystal Duncan, third-grade teacher, Prairie View Elementary, Mustang: Duncan is “determined to reform one-size-fits-all mandates and the over-testing of our kids that restrict learning.”
House District 68
Michael Ross, journalism teacher, Charles Page High School, Tulsa: “Seeing the legislature’s indifference to the needs of our classes, our kids, and our families galvanized me. I tell my students and my daughter that they have to be willing to stand for something; I am taking a stand for them.”
Angela Statum, kindergarten teacher, Clinton Elementary School, Tulsa: “I believe public education needs to be both fully and properly funded so that classrooms have text books and supplies necessary to provide students [with a] quality education.”
House District 79
Karen Gilbert, teaching assistant, Wright Elementary School, Tulsa: “Our schools are either having to shorten the school week, lay off teachers, or close schools altogether, all because our state lawmakers are choosing special interests over our interests. Our kids are suffering the consequences.”
Following the history-making educator walkout in April, 115 educators and others with close connections to education filed to run for office, according to OEA. These educators and allies earned overwhelming support from voters in the June primaries, with 71 education candidates—29 of them OEA members—advancing.
“We couldn’t be more pleased that so many educators are striving to become legislators,” said Alicia Priest, a Spanish and ELL teacher who now serves as OEA president.
“We ended the walkout after we hit a wall with some legislators, especially Senate leadership, who were refusing to even talk to us anymore about the needs in education,” Priest said. “We said clearly we were turning our focus to campaigns and elections.”
OEA called off the walkout on a Thursday specifically so that more educators and allies who were considering a run could make the candidate filing deadline the following day.
In addition to providing financial support, OEA and several of its locals have worked hard since late spring to support member candidates on the ground.
First, OEA hosted an educator candidate training in May where campaign strategists shared their expertise on fund raising, developing concise messages, and having in-person conversations. OEA has organized days of action to canvass for recommended candidates. In addition, several locals have hosted forums and town halls.
“We have been engaged and activated at levels that we haven’t seen in a long time in Oklahoma,” said Priest.
“Our greatest hope is to get enough of our education candidates elected so we can make progress on our Together We’re Stronger three-year plan to continue to make up the billion-dollar deficit that public education has seen over the last 10 years,” Priest said.
The plan would re-invest $75 million in public schools, primarily for rehiring teachers. It specifies a $2,000 raise for certified educators next year, and $2,500 for support staff.