Patti Green welcomed her class with a smile as they moved chairs to the back of the classroom and sat down for music class on Wednesday.
While many teachers like Green will go the entire day smiling and laughing with their students, some are quietly dealing with uncertainty and heartbreak.
“I’m devastated,” Green, who is the music instructor at Charles Evans Elementary, said. “I’m so, so disappointed.”
State Question 779, a penny tax that aimed at providing $5,000 across-the-board pay increases for teachers and more available funding for education, was struck down during Tuesday’s General Election, receiving only 40.38 percent of the vote (555,665 votes) for the tax increase.
Charles Evans Elementary School assistant principal Lacy Mitchell said through the last few weeks and months many teachers have discussed the question and worked to raise awareness. She said coming into the school the day following the election there hadn’t been much discussion on the issue, but some teachers displayed disappointment over the results.
Mitchell said a few teachers wondered why other State Questions, like 781 and 792, were approved while the education tax was not.
““We care enough to vote that in (other questions) but not education,”” she said many teachers said of the election results.
Green, who said she has been working to raise awareness on the state question, said she expected 779 to pass on Tuesday.
“I was totally surprised by the ‘No’ votes,” Green said. “I’m afraid that people went and were excited to vote for president but I’m not sure they were informed enough on the state questions.”
Green said she believes the vote will only contribute to the budget woes and concerns many schools have been faced with in the last few years. Funds, she believes, will only get tighter for schools.
“The next step is letting more teachers go and the possibility of schools closing,” she said. “I see an exodus out of Oklahoma schools.”
Of the funds generated through the tax, 69.5 percent would have been allocated to common education, 19.25 percent for higher education, 8 percent for early childhood education and 3.25 percent to career tech. A majority of the common education portion would have been allocated for the teacher raise, something Green said many teachers had hoped for.
“We are professionals and we deserve to be paid as such,” Green said. “Many teachers I know have two jobs and that’s not acceptable.”
Green said leading into the election she did research, both on 779 and the other state questions. She said she anticipated more Oklahomans would approve the measure, given the current climate of education in the state. Oklahoma education has taken several budget hits, as well as a hemorrhaging of teachers to adjacent states that can pay teachers higher wages.
“Until we are prepared to take bold action on behalf of public education, we will continue to suffer the consequences, as a greater and greater number of teachers leave the state or exit the profession altogether,” State superintendent of public instruction Joy Hofmeister said in a statement in response to State Question 779’s defeat. “I believe Oklahomans support teachers, but they did not want to relieve the Legislature of its responsibility.”
 “There would be no doctors, no newspapers … nothing without teachers that have brought people and encouraged people to follow their education and dreams,” Green said.
Green said teachers have a strong passion for not only their kids, but seeing students achieve success. She said many teachers choose the path of teaching not for the money, but because they want to make a difference in the lives of their students.
“I’m just sad that the majority of people in Oklahoma didn’t put the welfare of our children and education first,” she said. “I just can’t imagine people seeing what I see and hearing what I hear every day tell these kids you’re not worth it.”