Written by – Arian Dunehew, Deborah Horn and Kaity Holmes.
TULSA – State Representative Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, calls her position in the state legislature a result of the teacher walkout. She traded the classroom for the capitol on a promise of improving education following the historic 2018 teacher walkout.
Representative Provenzano’s career began as a teacher in both middle and high school. She went on to become an administrator. She told EPIC News Network she saw firsthand the effects of education funding cuts. She had to cut teacher positions and said sometimes losing a teacher can mean losing students.
“If you’re sitting in the back of the classroom, and you don’t have enough teachers you’re going to miss that kid who’s not going to demand your attention,” Provenzano said.
The teacher shortage was an additional problem for schools. Oklahoma has issued more than 3,000 emergency teacher certifications according to the State Department of Education.
“The schools that are struggling the most are the ones that have the highest percentage of emergency certified teachers and so we need to get them the support that they need, funding, and we also need to shore up the traditional certification routes,” Provenzano said.
During her first term she helped defeat legislation that would have allowed for emergency certified superintendents.
Provenzano said she wants to make changes that would benefit students. “Kids are kids, they’re the same everywhere you go, and what they need is what we need to get them.”
This summer, Provenzano called for a study of virtual school attendance policies. “I think the attendance policy of virtual schools, not just EPIC, but in general, needs to be re-examined for authenticity,” Provenzano said.
While calling for improvements to the system, Representative Provenzano said she was hopeful about the future of virtual education and its impact of Oklahoma students.