Mixed emotions for Norman teacher winning election
Other educators have become inspired to run themselves
NORMAN — Amid the congratulatory messages and “likes,” Jacob Rosecrants' Facebook feed included a few sad face emojis, most left by former and current students who were happy to see their teacher elected to the state Legislature, but sad to see him leave the classroom.
“It's super bittersweet,” said Rosecrants, a public school teacher who won a special election Tuesday in House District 46. “I was making some real difference with some of these kids in the class, but I'm going (to the state Capitol) to fight for them there.”
A year after dozens of educators ran for state office and nearly all lost — including Rosecrants, — Tuesday's election was celebrated by public school advocates well beyond Norman, where the race was held.
It was also an encouraging sign to some other public school teachers looking to get elected in 2018.
“He's a big inspiration,” said John Waldron, a social studies teacher at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, and a Democratic candidate for House District 39.
Like Rosecrants, Waldron lost his election last year. But he is running again and said Rosecrants showed it can be done.
“It's no coincidence that he won after what we saw last legislative session,” Waldron said.
Other public school teachers who have announced a run for office in 2018 include Carri Hicks, a fourth-grade teacher who is running as a Democrat in Oklahoma City's Senate District 40.
“The Legislature has no clue what it looks like and feels like in a classroom,” Hicks told The Oklahoman.
Educators have expressed frustration with school funding cuts and teacher pay averaging near the bottom nationally.
Rosecrants, who teaches at Roosevelt Middle School, said he will leave his position before Sept. 25, when a special session of the state Legislature is expected to convene.
While education was a central topic in many campaigns last year, including House District 46, Rosecrants said even more voters this time around said they were frustrated with funding levels for schools and teacher salaries.
“I had many say they were really upset that the Legislature didn't pass a teacher pay plan after they said they would,” Rosecrants said.
Rosecrants may have benefited from an increased focus on education issues, but he also didn't have to run against a popular incumbent, unlike last year.
Still, education leaders see the win as an opportunity to have a lawmaker with intimate knowledge of what it's like in the classroom.
“I don't think we will see a lot of lip service on the issues that confront public education, like you sometimes see (in the Legislature),” said Ed Allen, president of the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers.
The AFT's state political action committee financially supported Rosecrants' campaign and Allen said he hopes the election shows voters paid attention to the “broken promises” of the last legislative session.
“Since (the 2016 elections) we have had a Legislature make a lot of promises on how they were going to take care of teachers and they failed miserably,” Allen said. “The more teachers we get in there the better we are and the closer we are to finding a solution.”