I started this blog to dispute myths about public education, not to endorse candidates for public office. During the last six months, I have followed (and been followed by) several incumbents and their challengers on Twitter. There have been engaging and sometimes contentious exchanges. While I’m not going to say specifically that readers of this blog need to support one person over another, I will give a few guiding principles that inform my decision-making.
Finance – If a candidate still thinks that education has too much money, I’d have to question that person’s commitment to helping children. Public schools in Oklahoma have been bled dry over the last few years. They’ve endured cuts to vital programs while enrolling more students. In most cases, teachers’ raises during this time have not kept pace with inflation. School districts have paid close attention to their annual carryover to make sure they can pay salaries and buy textbooks when the next year begins … and they’ve been attacked for it. Support the candidate who understands that quality public education takes money.
Accountability – If a candidate has a double-standard about public and private school accountability, I’d avoid that person too. Public schools have to maintain open records related to revenues and expenditures. Private schools don’t. Public schools have to endure test upon test upon test. Private schools don’t. Public schools have to follow state and federal guidelines. Private schools don’t. Some candidates for public office insist that private schools outperform public schools. There’s simply no evidence to support this. Given the push coming for the Parent Trigger and expanded Voucher options, the people who maintain these inconsistencies should not be trusted with the oversight of public education.
Consolidation – If a candidate thinks that there should be an arbitrary limit on how small a district can be before wanting it closed, that person has paid no attention to research on school size. The recent legislative study showing potential cost savings failed to mention that studies in other states found no savings from consolidation unless attendance centers were closed. In rural Oklahoma, this is often simply not possible. While some districts struggle to operate financially or offer a comprehensive curriculum and should consider consolidation accordingly, they should not be subjected to mandates that will weaken communities with no tangible benefit.
One more thing – I’m against four of the state questions (758, 759, 765, and 766). The other two (762 and 764) make sense to me. If you want a good synopsis of these questions, go to the Oklahoma Policy Institute website. You should also subscribe and have their blog sent to your inbox daily.
Education is but one issue. There are many others. Make informed decisions. Then wake up Wednesday and be proud of your city, your school, your state, and your country.