Oklahoma science teacher has met twice with Gov. Mary Fallin to voice funding concerns

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Mustang science teacher Mark Webb is seen at far left meeting with Gov. Mary Fallin at her office during the teacher walkout. Photo provided
Mustang science teacher Mark Webb may is among the few Oklahoma teachers who have gotten to meet with Gov. Mary Fallin twice in the past month.

The first time Webb met Fallin, it was to witness the the signing of a historic revenue package in March to fund teacher pay raises.

He and other Mustang teachers were invited to attend the ceremony in the governor’s Blue Room at the State Capitol and be in photographs with her as the bills were signed. The revenue package promised teachers an average $6,100 raise.

“I told her ‘thank you’ for everything we got, but that we needed to continue,” Webb said. “I told her funding for schools needed to improve. It was never just about the raise.”

Ultimately, the new revenue package was not enough to stave off a teacher walkout.

Webb got to meet Fallin again about two weeks later during the walkout, with a group of other Mustang teachers inside the governor’s office.

Staff in Fallin’s office have received more than 5,000 visitors over the past week. Webb thinks he and other Mustang teachers just happened to visit the office at the right time in order get face time with her. A staffer in Fallin’s office also has children that attend Mustang schools, which also might have helped, Webb said.

The Mustang teachers again told Fallin about how their classes were too large and how they needed more funding for schools.

“I think she heard us. I think she listened to us, but I don’t think it was much more than that,” Webb said. “I’ve called it ‘lip service.’ She is what she is. At this point, she’s on her way out the door and she doesn’t want to go out of her way to change the funding situation.”

Fallin met with the Webb and his coworkers for about 10 or 15 minutes. Staff snapped a picture of the meeting, which was later posted on Fallin’s Twitter account.

“What she told us was, ‘Well, it’s hard to fix it all in one year,” Webb said. “She kind of went through her talking points. These meetings are in a really controlled environment where she knows what to say and she knows what’s coming.”

Over the past 10 years, Webb said he has seen his class sizes grow and resources shrink. He used to have about  24 students for a science lab and now he averages about 30.

If the school funding situation in Oklahoma doesn’t improve, Webb said he’ll join the many teachers who have left the state.

He’s a fifth-generation Oklahoman.

“If it doesn’t get better, I’m done,” he said.

Earlier this week, Fallin signed House Bill 1012XX, which repealed a $5 tax on hotel and motel rooms that was part of the original revenue package to fund the teacher pay raises.  The law was projected to bring in $50 million in funding for education.

She also signed two other pieces of legislation to replace some of the revenue, allowing tribal casinos to use ball and dice games and another bill requiring third-party online retailers to collect and remit sales tax back to the state.

The Oklahoma Education Association asked Fallin to veto the hotel motel tax repeal as one of its conditions to end the two-week teacher walkout. On Thursday, the OEA called for an end to the walkout.

“The revenue package that funded the teacher pay raises would not have passed the Senate with the required supermajority, or three-fourths support, had a bipartisan agreement not been struck to repeal the hotel/motel tax,” Fallin said in a statement.

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Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey grew up in Idaho. Oklahoma is her adopted home. Bailey has covered issues ranging from Oklahoma's strained child welfare system to the slow decline of Oklahoma's rural hospitals. She has walked all the way across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to south via Western Avenue and once via the old U.S. Route 66. Her hobbies are baking and crashing meetings she isn't invited to attend. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from The University of Oklahoma. Email her at brianna@readfrontier.com
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