Francisca Martinez Jensen: Oklahoma Broke its Promise: One of 3000 Broken Promises
Francisca Martinez Jensen is a wife, mother, and exemplary National Board Certified teacher in an Oklahoma suburban school district. She holds two masters degrees from the University of Oklahoma and the University of Central Oklahoma in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with an emphasis in Diversity in Education and one in Early Childhood Education. She wrote a guest post for the blog Fourth Generation Teacher about Oklahoma’s shafting of NBCTs (and education).
Then came the time to decide to renew. I was hesitant and frustrated by the broken promises from the Legislators and Oklahoma State Department of Education. I couldn’t believe that it had been 10 years since I certified and that the National Board program in Oklahoma had gone through so many financial cuts and had eliminated most of the support to help elevate our profession. During that time, I had served on an Oklahoma Education Association Salary Ad-Hoc committee and through this work, I learned that we were trying to reach a “regional average” in salary to stay competitive in keeping teachers in our state instead of continuously losing GOOD teachers to surrounding states (uh, hem…Texas…).
One of the ways the Legislators had thought of staying competitive was to offer the $5,000 National Board Certification stipend to those who certified. That was lost real quickly. I received my stipend (minus FICA and taxes) of $2,900 for the 10 years of my original certificate. Then, when I renewed, I didn’t qualify because my district paid above the state salary schedule and were exempt from doing so. Like I had stated, earlier, I wasn’t in it for the money, but it was getting really hard to pay off my student loans (which, 17 years later, I still am paying off) and keep up with financial responsibilities to prepare for a family.
All I kept thinking was…I kept my promise to teach our students in the National Board way; connect, support, and reach out to families; collaborate with my colleagues and other professionals; and to continue developing as a teacher because THAT’s what makes the biggest impact in our classrooms. I have worked tirelessly around the clock to find resources for my students; work with families to guide and lead them through their children’s experiences; translate for my school’s Spanish-speaking families; build positive, long-lasting relationships with children and families; collaborate with my colleagues, administrators, and professors; continue to attend professional development; serve on committees; work with interns and Universities to help future educators; and the list goes on and on. This is what I know NOW.
So, I was down to the last minute to think about renewal and I finally decided to. It had nothing to do with the NBCT process, but it had a lot to do with fighting against the state of Oklahoma and how they have let many children and families down with their budget cuts, cutting programs like the NBCT program, cutting resources and funding, etc. And, now, it has an impact on not only my husband and I, but our two adopted boys. My salary is still low for working 17 years in a public school system, having two masters in Education, and being Nationally-Board Certified. Still, as I thought about not doing renewal, I was reminded about my students, their families, their situations, and the school community I promised to change for the better that I had to continue to develop in best practices, reflect, connect, make changes, advocate, etc. for them and those who would come later.