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Calling a Crock a Crock

March 9, 2014

Yesterday, in a paragraph at the end of a column of short editorials, the Oklahoman once again took a cheap shot at the Education Rally scheduled for March 31 at the Oklahoma Capitol:

Snow and ice meant two more days out of school this week for thousands of Oklahoma students, who now await word as to when those days will be made up. There is one date that won’t be used by many districts – Monday, March 31. That’s when administrators and teachers plan to head to Oklahoma City to rally state lawmakers for more spending on education. “We are absolutely not backing out” of the rally, said a spokesman for Tulsa Public Schools, because “it’s clear that we have to do something to get more attention for this issue.” What a crock. Common education funding is always a front-burner issue for lawmakers, even if administrators don’t agree with the size of the check that gets written each year. The rally will be a huge waste of time, particularly for students who should be in class learning something that day.

First of all, state law requires that schools provide 180 days or 1080 hours of instruction. All districts in the state will provide that, whether they hold class March 31 or not. Second, the contention that “education funding is always a front-burner issue or lawmakers,” is the real crock. Last year, if you’ll recall, the Legislature spent more money overall than ever before. In spite of this, common education funding is still well below the 2008 level. Most importantly, the rally will not be a waste of time.

As Scott Haselwood pointed out yesterday, activism resulted in the passage of reforms and a major funding increase in 1990. And as many have mentioned on Twitter, schools waste an enormous amount of time on tasks that are completely useless – things ranging from Roster Verification to A-F Report Cards to field testing item tryouts to Common Core transition plans to the Good Cause Exemptions. The Corporate Education Reform movement and its minions at the SDE and in the Legislature continue to find ways to waste the time of schools and families.

Enough is enough. We know our voices have power. Our presence has even more. I’ve fielded questions about the timing of the rally. Why not have the rally over Spring Break? Last time we tried to find an audience over Spring Break, we ended up speaking to tape recorders. Why not wait until school is out? The legislature only meets from February through May. By the time school is out, the budget will already be set.

Sure, there are legislators who delete their emails without reading them (and don’t realize that the sender gets a message to that effect). There are more who listen, even when the viewpoint is diametrically opposed to their own.

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen what happens when parents and educators call the legislature. The voucher bill went away for now, and both chambers are debating the future of the Common Core. We’ve also seen momentum towards some good-sense adjustments to the Reading Sufficiency Act. If the rally has at least as many parents as educators, if the dialogue is constructive rather than bombastic, and if the weather cooperates, March 31 should be a tremendous use of our time.

In the meantime, we’ll keep defending what we’re doing – even if we have to have a Rally for the Rally™!

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