An alarming photo showcasing the disrepair inside an Oklahoma classroom has led to a surge of do-gooders opening up their wallets as teachers continue statewide walkouts over school funding this week.
Supporters have donated more than $44,000 worth of school supplies to Puterbaugh Middle School in McAlester, Oklahoma, CNN reported, after art teacher Laurissa Kovacs posted a photo of a broken chair on Facebook last week to show why she was walking out. The post contained a link to an Amazon wishlist for classroom supplies.
“I literally do not have enough chairs for 32 students. This photo is something every one of my students is familiar with,” she wrote in the post, which shows a cracked plastic chair with dangerously jagged edges. “Today a student actually carried his chair with him to sharpen his pencil because he got in early enough to get a good chair.”
By Thursday morning, donors had fulfilled Kovacs’ request for 70 chairs. Additional items remained on her list as of Thursday evening ― including tables, dry-erase markers, glue and pencils ― and she said they will go to other teachers in need if purchased.
“My plans are to share, share, share!” she told CNN. “I’m not the only one in my district who needs things, so I’ll be sharing it all.”
While Kovacs’ photo has drawn attention to her own classroom’s plight, fellow teachers and students say it’s a problem they also deal with, and not just in Oklahoma.
In another photo posted to Twitter last week, an Oklahoma mom showed a photo of her daughter’s textbook that lists George W. Bush as the current U.S. president. Bush left office more than nine years ago.
“Here is mine,” Jack Baker, a fellow Twitter user who identified himself as an Oklahoma teacher, replied, posting a photo of a textbook from his classroom that he said appears just as old.
Similar photos posted online show more broken chairs and ratty textbooks in classrooms, many with covers that are either torn or missing.
Kovacs joined hundreds of teachers at Oklahoma’s State Capitol during ongoing statewide walkouts this week. Teachers in West Virginia took similar steps last month.
The rallies at the Capitol aim to win funding for higher teacher wages and school resources to provide adequate supplies and reduce class sizes.
Last week, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed legislation that gives teachers a $6,100 pay raise, equating to 15 to 18 percent. Then on Tuesday, Fallin signed an education budget bill that provides $2.9 billion for the state’s K-12 public education and the teachers’ raises.
On Wednesday, amid mounting teacher protests, Oklahoma’s House of Representatives passed a bill that will give the state’s education system the first year of proceeds collected from a sales tax that’s being imposed upon third-party sellers like Amazon. The tax is expected to bring in $20.5 million annually. In the years after, the first $20.5 million collected will continue to go to education, Tulsa World reported.
School and teacher advocates have applauded these efforts as a good start but continue to stress that more is needed.
“This legislation falls well short of fixing those problems. These measures leave millions in revenue on the table and still leave Oklahoma students among the worst funded in the nation,” Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest said in a statement.
State Rep. Scott Inman, D-Oklahoma City, argued on Wednesday that the funding bill signed by Fallin isn’t enough to cover the promised teacher raises and education spending.
Some lawmakers, including Appropriations and Budget Committee Chairman Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, have disputed that concern.
“People have been told there is a gaping hole in the budget,” Wallace said, according to Tulsa World. “It is not true. [Either] there is a misunderstanding of how the budget works or there is a desire for pandemonium and drama, intended to drive fear in educators.”
Oklahoma City’s Public School District announced on Thursday that schools will remain closed on Friday as statewide walkouts continue.