My Day at the Capitol: #oklahomateacherwalkout

Today Karen, Miss P and I drove down to Oklahoma City, adding our voice to the thousands of educators who, for almost all of my daughter’s life, have that their salary buying power reduced by over 10%, and per-pupil funding reduced by near 20%.  Putting Oklahoma last in overall education funding.

I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last time this Spring that I make that drive.

As we drove down, we passed 8 of 13 Jenks buses — rented by the teachers (NOT PAID for by the schools) to ferry everyone who wanted to go and be heard.  Once there, the Jenks contingent commandeered the grassy triangle at NW 21st & N Lincoln Blvd and a bunch of us waved our signs at all cars heading south.  After all the speeches, the attendees circled the capitol many times, and some went in to try to talk with legislators.

We don’t know yet how many people were there, but by Oklahoma standards, it looked massive.  Three news helicopters, camera drones, and local/national/international news crews.  Search Twitter for #oklahomateacherwalkout and you’ll see it all.

Photo Credit: Megan King Zetik

But I have some thoughts to make this long-haul event better (Us tech types can’t leave well enough alone):

  • Wireless Mesh for demonstrators.  All us social media folks found the cell networks overloaded today.  A few wireless mesh Access Points scattered around (battery powered would be fine) that run back to a wired jack in the OEA building to the northwest would have been golden to help get the message out.
  • Being that it’s a long haul, the OEA should have a registration page on their microsite [ http://standwithteachers.org/ ].  Being able to have teachers and friends of education sign up for their stint at the Capitol would assure that (a) there’s a certain number of folks on hand every day, and (b) that there are sufficient printed materials to hand out.   And more importantly: be able to record their contacts with legislators so the next day’s shift can know where to go.  In other words, a volunteer-facing advocacy platform.

At the Tulsa Area United Way, our three pillars are Education, Health/Safety, and Financial Stability.  Before this day, under the heading of Health, we’ve done a lot to plan and lessen the food insecurity pain of the walkout.  In our 6-county service area, almost 100,000 pupils are on the free/reduced meal program, meaning that when school is not in session they may not have food options.  Our own relatively affluent Jenks/South Tulsa district accounts for over 4,200.  We’ve convened over 80 stakeholders over the past few weeks to begin to register alternate sites like churches, Boys and Girls Clubs, museums, libraries, etc. who’ll be able to provide meals to students or offer educational alternatives for the duration of the walkout.  It has been inspiring, and there’s been a lot written about this in the local media.  I’m very proud of my NTech Collaborative team of John Cory and Seth Bevan for putting this together when our community needed it most.

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