Once again we are nearing the end of a legislative session and the Reading Sufficiency Act remains hostage to certain members who not only refuse to make the changes of last session permanent, but want to include more 3rd graders to the mix of students who could be retained.
Once again we are nearing the end of a legislative session where anti-public education legislation garnered immediate attention in the session.
Once again public education funding will be cut. The downturn in oil and gas prices is 50% to blame. The other 50% lies at the feet of the legislature and the governor. Their lower the income tax platform “at all costs” – a carbon copy of Kansas politics (ahem, where the Koch brothers reside – we are sure that is just a coincidence) is responsible for the remaining 300 million of the deficit.
The general public in Oklahoma overwhelmingly supports public education. By and large they support their local schools. Most public school parents are tired of the testing. They hate what it is doing to their children. They hate the 3rd grade reading test. They see the angst and anxiety this test wields over their kiddos.
So, how did we get here? The right hand turn of the legislature in Oklahoma is a southern brand of anti-establishment politics which rose again after the election of President Obama. But how did anti-public education get thrown in the mix?
Quite simply, money, desire, a very smart political strategy and voter apathy.
The porch would respectfully submit to Oklahoma educators, board members, and parents that they better study the history of this rise to power if they hope to swing the pendulum back to support of public education.
Oklahoma right wing politicians are a strange blend of Tea Party and Libertarian views.
Tea Party politicians in Oklahoma support public education. They just want to limit big government and want local control of Oklahoma education. They would like to see tenure removed for Oklahoma teachers and if they could do it, make all Oklahoma school children recite the Lord’s Prayer before the start of the school day. They despise unions. They rail at the thought of separation of church and state when it comes to public education. They are pro-life, pro 2nd Amendment, pro Christian. They are not, however, anti-public education funding or anti-public education support. They believe that our students are being over tested. They do not like No Child Left Behind. They hate Common Core, or any federally mandated education standards.
The extreme right to the right of the right wing part of the Republican Party looks very similar to the John Birch Society views of the 1960’s. That should come as no surprise since the Koch Brothers grew up in a John Birch household. Their father was one of the first members of the JBS trusted inner council.
The Koch Brothers have spun the JBS right wing vitriol into a personal political platform that is anti-tax, anti-public education, and anti-any form of energy source that is not oil and gas. No one can blame them for voting and supporting their own pocketbooks. You have to give them credit for a brilliant political strategy.
Libertarians, however, are vehemently opposed to any type, kind, brand or method of public education. They would like to remove the Oklahoma Constitutional provision that says that all children in Oklahoma are entitled to a public education at no cost.
Libertarians believe that public education is not a proper function of government. As such, they believe each parent should be responsible for the education of their own child. They want to dismantle the federal Department of Education. They want to dismantle the IRS. They want to dismantle all taxes if you want the pure Libertarian form of government. They have a hard time figuring out how we would pay for those roads and bridges though.
No government is good government for a Libertarian. They believe in personal freedoms. They are not anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-anything, as long as it doesn’t hurt or interfere with any other person.
They believe an individual has the right to choose whether to have an abortion. A person has the right to choose whether to take drugs. Libertarians would get rid of any victimless crime. They believe prisons should be for the persons who are a threat to another person. Hence, social justice reform is at the top of their agenda.
So what can Oklahoma education do?
Oklahoma Education Needs its Own “Race to the Top.”
1. Vow to protect those legislators that always have public education’s back.
2. Flip a District. Pick out 2 house seats and 2 senate seats that are winnable, flippable, to a pro-public education candidate. Make sure education has a viable public education candidate who is electable before committing to that race.
3. The Koch Brothers have initiated a strategy to first elect people to local political seats who have been run through their grist mill and spit out on the other side. They employed a bottom up strategy. Don’t overlook municipal races. There are several high profile city councilmen who are anti-public education. Public education doesn’t have to necessarily unseat them, but it does need to counter their influence with a person elected to the same position with pro-public education views.
4. This strategy will only work if Oklahoma educators are willing to spend the time — and money– to make it work. Instead of complaining about the ones in office, Oklahoma educators must lead the charge to elect new ones.
5. The sad truth is that teachers don’t vote. The porch is appalled at the voter apathy of teachers. The anti-public education camp VOTES. They vote their political ideals. They have the Koch brothers to fund them. Getting out the vote is a significant tool and a powerful one for public education to employ. It starts with your juniors and seniors. Get them registered to vote. Have their e-mail addresses collected for absentee ballot information.
6. A revolt must be led by Oklahoma educators but supported and driven by public education parents. The recent rise of Parent Legislative Action Committees is such a powerful tool. It has been great at making changes to the RSA. Parents are beginning to be elected to school boards which is great, but they must also start to be elected to the house and senate if public education funding and education policies are to become a priority.
7. The porch challenges Oklahoma administrators to get together at your Summer Conference and strategize for next year’s elections. The porch challenges Oklahoma school board members to get together at your August conference and strategize. The porch challenges Oklahoma public education parents to get together this summer as well and strategize. Then coordinate.
Oklahoma public education must implement its own Race to the Top.
It successfully dethroned the Dentist and elected a pro education advocate in the top education spot. But she can’t do it alone. She needs help. Your help.
It will take MONEY and time and smart politics.
Either vow to do your best to change the status quo or simply stop complaining about the problem.