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All the Battle

March 22, 2015

I hope you’ve all had a good Spring Break. I’ve spent most of it catching up on work, reading, doing a few chores, and sporadically paying attention to education issues. As we get set for the fourth quarter of the school year and the second half of the legislative session, I’ve also been looking for something to tie together the task we in the #oklaed community have ahead of us.

In times like these, I often turn to quotes from songs or from movies. With the major league baseball season beginning in about two weeks, I thought about pulling down a Crash Davis monologue from Bull Durham. On the other hand, although I agree with his views on pretty much everything, especially the designated hitter and opening presents Christmas morning, it’s not really an appropriate rant for an education blog. Instead, I’m going to use one of the shortest speeches ever from a Kevin Costner movie. This clip is only six seconds long.

http://www.hark.com/clips/gsbznfbfrh-lets-think-about-what-is-all-the-battle

In the Untouchables, as Elliot Ness takes his men north of the border to interrupt Al Capone’s liquor supply line, a Canadian Mountie implores Ness to remember that the element of surprise is “half the battle.” Ness responds:

The surprise is half the battle. Many things are half the battle, losing is half the battle. Let’s think about what is all the battle.

We sometimes fall into the half-the-battle line of thinking in our own conversations. I’ve heard school leaders say that when it comes to effective instruction, relationships are half the battle. Relationships are certainly the most critical element in effective classroom management and instruction, but it is one of at least a dozen elements that contribute to someone being a good teacher. Passion for your content area is critical as well. So is school culture. Collaboration matters too. As does having adequate instructional resources. You get the idea.

A similar thought holds true when it comes to our focus on education policy. Most of us can’t carry the flag into battle for or against every piece of legislation that affects public schools in this state, so we focus on the ones that matter the most to us. Maybe we think, stopping vouchers would be half the battle, or reducing testing would be half the battle. Admittedly, in the limited time I’ve had to write in 2015, I’ve focused on only four things: teacher pay, APUSH, replacing the EOIs with the ACT (SB 707), and Clark Jolley’s voucher extravaganza (SB 609). I’ve tweeted about other issues, but I have to pick my fights. In the process, if I’m lucky, I’m focused on half the battle.

Our friendly Oklahoma Legislature, on the other hand, has time to focus on all the battle. In addition to the above issues, they* also want to restrict how teachers who choose to belong to OEA or AFT have their dues drawn. One legislator explained his vote against this bill saying those supporting it just wanted to poke the union in the eye. Among those who voted for this bill on the House floor are several legislators who usually earn the praises of the #oklaed community. The reason we must praise the ones who support us in tough times is that we need to have their attention when they do things like this too. Ultimately, if this passes the Senate and earns the governor’s signature, I imagine the various local bargaining units will still manage to collect dues from teachers.

They also want to increase the number of third graders having to prove their worth to a committee to include those scoring Limited Knowledge (rather than just Unsatisfactory) on the third-grade reading test. Never mind that the Speaker Hickman refused to hear Katie Henke’s bill in the House that would have made the promotion committee (including a parent) a permanent part of the RSA process. No, they’re just going with the convoluted senate version instead. It keeps the committee in place for another four years, but it will nearly triple the number of students for whom a committee needs to meet.

Again, while any of us focus on the part of the battle we can personally handle, the Legislature continues fighting all of it.

As an aside, you may also be wondering, why does it have to be a battle? That is an excellent question. I don’t get it either. You’d think the people responsible for not providing any funding for teacher raises during the last eight years would at least care enough to support the people who actually work with students. They give lip service to it, but lip service doesn’t solve the teacher shortage. It doesn’t put food on the table. It doesn’t show that our elected leaders respect teachers.

Meanwhile, the policy attacks continue. Last year, the voucher battle wasn’t even close. This year it was. While we focused our blogs and phone calls tirelessly on that, legislators ran other bills to chip away at the remaining strengths of public education – all while saying they have a $611 million hole and no way to fill it.

Yes, it’s promising that we have a state superintendent who is willing to sound the alarm and let the world know that the teacher shortage will only widen if we don’t get more funding. We also have a governor who hasn’t said a word.

The battle is not unique to Oklahoma. Nor does it just impact the teachers. Parents who speak out against corporate reform and high-stakes testing also face marginalization. Meanwhile, even within his own party, Jeb Bush is no longer seen as the expert on education. Florida is fighting back, as are the states that have adopted Florida’s model.

We had our own little revolt against this anti-education machine last June. It went well. Since then, we haven’t exactly been complacent. The attacks just keep coming. Parents and educators uniting to fight back must be half the battle, right?

It’s a start. All the battle is about money and respect. Simply put, that’s all we’ll be asking for on March 30th.

_________

*When I say they, obviously I don’t mean all. Since support varies from bill to bill, though, it’s hard so give any legislator a pass at this point.

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  1. Mindy
    March 22, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    Funny you mention the governor. I was just wondering myself why I haven’t heard or read any comment from her about any of the education issues. Is that normal? Maybe I’m just not looking hard enough…

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  2. Bec
    March 23, 2015 at 3:13 am

    Please keep up the good work. Most teachers are much too busy in their classrooms to actively lobby the legislature. You give us, our students and parents a much needed voice. Thank you.

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  3. John Thompson
    March 26, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    You are right. This may be too close to home, but last night the KOSU discussion on “Choice” had to be cut short due to the weather. As the moderator asked and passed on information about a safe place if the tornado comes, Joe Dorman said wryly, “We don’t need no storm shelters.”

    So, we can still laugh as we fight back.

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