Mixed emo­tions for Nor­man teacher win­ning elec­tion

Other ed­u­ca­tors have be­come in­spired to run them­selves

Tulsa World - - Our Lives - By Ben Felder The Ok­la­homan bfelder @ok­la­homan.com

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.”


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