A math and special education teacher who works at a school in Norman, Oklahoma has started his bid for political office after being fed up with the way his state handles public education funding.
According to Education Week, Shawn Sheehan (pictured), Oklahoma’s reigning Teacher of the Year is currently running as an independent for the State Senate as he continues his work as a school teacher this year. Sheehan and 42 other Oklahoma teachers are trying to make a change in their state by pursuing seats on the State Legislature.
Sheehan and his colleagues have grown weary of how the ultra-conservative Oklahoma State Legislature has imposed budget cuts to K-12 education funding, denied raises for teachers, and a whole host of other calamities that have wreaked havoc on the quality of public education in their state.
If you’re not going to do your job, I want your seat,” Sheehan told Education Week.
Teachers have the best hands-on experience a person could have when it comes to dealing with the day-to-day obstacles of education children with limited resources provided by the state. In Oklahoma and many other U.S. states, policy that governs the livelihood of teachers is usually controlled by people who do not have backgrounds in education.
Sheehan and his group of colleagues are looking to change that this election season.
“We were teaching to the test, we weren’t getting pay raises and we were at the bottom of the barrel on everything. It’s time that they start listening to what we have to say,” said Judy Mullen Hopper, a special education teacher in Oklahoma’s Putnam City public school district.
Hopper is a former union representative at her school. She retired after experiencing anger over Oklahoma’s draconian teacher evaluation system and the state’s testing requirements for special needs students.
If Sheehan and his colleagues are all successful this election season, they would substantially put a dent in the grip the ultra-conservatives have over the predominantly Republican state. An unprecedented event like this would set the stage for fixing the broken public education system in the state of Oklahoma.