Reason #7 to vote #oklaed in #OKElections16: This matters more than Trump vs. Clinton
Two years ago, I made a list of the top 20 reasons to vote for anybody else other than Janet Barresi for state superintendent. At the end of the list, I also had a sizeable honorable mention list. With nine six days until the primaries this year, I’m writing a top 10 list of reasons to vote for pro-public education candidates. We can’t sit this one out. Too much is riding on our action.
We pay a lot of attention in this country to our presidential candidates. We should; the winner gets the title of leader of the free world for four years. The president gets to pick Supreme Court justices, insuring his or her legacy for years after leaving office. Globally, the president is the face of the nation.
In Oklahoma, Republicans picked Ted Cruz and Democrats picked Bernie Sanders to lead their parties forward. Instead, we will choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, as well as some off-brand candidates. Think of them as the RC Cola of politics.
Nobody I’ve talked to is excited about either candidate, but it seems most of my friends seem to have made it through Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief. Now they’re interested in the short list of vice-presidential picks for both parties.
Unless what we’re hearing is true, and Governor Fallin could be plucked from our very midst, the presidential race has exactly zero impact on public education in Oklahoma.
Neither party has a good track record recently with public school policy. No Child Left Behind was a bi-partisan law. The recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), gave more control to the states to enact policy, but I still feel like I’m 15 again, taking Driver’s Education, knowing that my instructor could slam the brakes from the passenger side at any time. They loosened a few strings, but the strings are still attached. Again, ESSA was a bi-partisan effort.
The president (and Congress for that matter) aren’t going to fix the state’s economy. They aren’t going to decide if our tax rates increase, decrease, or stay where they are. They aren’t going to vote on the Penny Sales Tax initiative. They aren’t going to challenge the fact that Oklahoma eliminated the Earned Income Tax Credit for poor families (because we’re basically giving them breaks on taxes they didn’t pay anyway) while doing nothing about tax credits for companies that essentially aren’t paying taxes either.
Nor will the next president weigh in on Oklahoma’s next round of voucher bills, which are as certain to come as Groundhog Day. In February, when we have a newly seated Legislature, they will passionately discuss school district consolidation, deregulation, textbook money, testing, revenue streams, the funding formula, ways to call taxes anything besides what they really are, how to count to 100 working days, academic standards, or charter schools. And when they discuss these things, the new president will still be selecting his or her new cabinet.
I’m not saying the presidential election isn’t important. Of course it is. We want to be proud of our next leader, but I think most of us can agree that we’re all past that feeling. So what’s on the undercard?
I’m an education voter. That doesn’t mean that the other issues don’t matter to me. I have opinions on a number of issues, but some are fringe social causes over which Oklahoma has no authority to move the needle. I care about the well-being of the people in this state, first and foremost. I want leaders who aren’t beholden to ALEC, OCPA, or the Wallyworld Foundation.* I want leaders who represent their constituents, not their parties.
I want a Legislature full of rational, critical, and respectful representatives and senators who can discuss this state’s most important issues without resulting to demagoguery and fear-mongering. Again, leave that to the presidential candidates.
And yes, I want candidates who truly support a strong public education system. We know that public schools serve nearly 700,000 students in this state. The system has to be healthy to serve those children well. The people working in the system deserve to feel respected by the state. They should also be able to support their families with what they make.
What I’m trying to say is that the people we elect to the Legislature impact our day-to-day lives much more than the people we elect to the White House do. We should be more invested in these races than we are in the big one.
*name changed to protect the over-sensitive