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Morning Bell: Challenges and opportunities for teachers unions

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Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest, and Ed Allen stand on the stage as Oklahoma teachers hold a rally at the State Capitol on Monday, April 2, 2018 in Oklahoma City, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest, and Ed Allen stand on the stage as Oklahoma teachers hold a rally at the State Capitol on Monday, April 2, 2018 in Oklahoma City, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

Good Monday morning. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that public employees can't be forced to pay fees to labor unions that represent them in collective bargaining, a move that is expected to financially weaken teachers unions across the country. 

Oklahoma is already a right to work state, meaning teachers (and other employees) are not required to pay union dues. Membership in Oklahoma teachers unions has declined in recent years, as it has nationally. 

“Teachers starting off, the salary is so low,” said Alberto Morejon, a 25-year-old middle-school history teacher, speaking with the New York Times. Foregoing union fees means “one less thing you have to pay for. A lot of younger teachers I know, they’re not joining because they need to save every dollar they can.”

However, union leaders who helped organize a two-week teacher walkout earlier this year said membership increased by a few hundred as labor organizing gained more attention. 

"We had a lot of teachers come to us and ask about our organization and what it could look like in their own school districts," said Ed Allen, president of the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers. "We've never seen that type of interest before and I think it shows how ready teachers are to organize."

I wrote earlier this year how the teacher walkout embodied both the power and limitations Oklahoma teachers unions have in attempting to corral a grassroots movement, especially one that seemed to be built on social media, where classroom teachers often had as big a microphone as a six-figure-salaried union boss.

Bonuses restored for speech-language pathologists, audiologists and psychologists 

The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted last week to restore a $5,000 bonus for nationally certified speech-language pathologists, audiologists and school psychologists after revenue for the annual incentive was cut for the last two years. The bonus will go into effect for the 2018-2019 school year.

Norman math teacher follows mother to national honors

Mother and daughter math teachers from Norman are recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

The awards, announced this week in Washington, D.C., are the highest honors given by the U.S. government specifically for K-12 mathematics and science (including computer science) teaching. 

Macey Stewart's career path was heavily influenced by her mother, a longtime math teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School.

"I watched the difference she made in children's lives as I was growing up," said Stewart, who teaches the same subject at Washington Elementary. "I knew from the time I was in elementary school that I wanted to be a teacher as well."

Shawnee Forward is encouraging businesses to partner with elementary classrooms

Classroom Partners, a program sponsored by Shawnee Forward, will allow businesses, families or individuals to partner with a classroom and help with finances for the school year, reports the Shawnee News-Star.

 Co-chair Will Rosebure said partners are expected to donate between $300 and $500, although the partners will discuss the final amount with the teacher they are partnered with. The money will help purchase resources like learning games and books, or help fund field trips. 

According to co-chair Meg Vorndran, the program currently has 25 partners and has 100 classes left to fill.

“As you know, many teachers have to buy things out of their own pocket because the school doesn’t have enough funding,” Rosebure said. “To some people....$300 is nothing, and it’s a lot to the teacher.”

That does it for today's Morning Bell. Have a great Monday! 

Related Photos
Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest, and Ed Allen stand on the stage as Oklahoma teachers hold a rally at the State Capitol on Monday, April 2, 2018 in Oklahoma City, Okla.  Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest, and Ed Allen stand on the stage as Oklahoma teachers hold a rally at the State Capitol on Monday, April 2, 2018 in Oklahoma City, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-b747f9bdf3e1df4e45d89f24c6513009.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest, and Ed Allen stand on the stage as Oklahoma teachers hold a rally at the State Capitol on Monday, April 2, 2018 in Oklahoma City, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman" title="Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest, and Ed Allen stand on the stage as Oklahoma teachers hold a rally at the State Capitol on Monday, April 2, 2018 in Oklahoma City, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest, and Ed Allen stand on the stage as Oklahoma teachers hold a rally at the State Capitol on Monday, April 2, 2018 in Oklahoma City, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure>
Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›

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