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Just Vote

August 22, 2016

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Oklahoma is in desperate need of some people who know the difference between good public policy and a kick in the head. That’s why we have so many active races for the Legislature, including 13 run-off elections in which many of you can vote tomorrow.

Over the last few months, I’ve seen different friends go back and forth about a person’s civic obligation to vote. I feel strongly that everybody should be as well-informed as possible and show up on election day. That means, of course, that many of you are going to show up and cancel out my selections. That’s fine too. I can live with not getting my way all the time.

It’s also fair to say that I’m more passionate about some races than others. In 2014, I put a lot of effort into writing about why we needed a new State Superintendent. I didn’t pay attention to the Legislature that much. I didn’t even chime in on the governor’s race until late, not that I think my thoughts there made much difference.

I believe one reason many people stay away from the polls is because there are just so many races. In how many have you really researched the history and positions of the candidates? You can look at party registration, but if you’re like me, sometimes it doesn’t matter. I regularly vote for Democrats and Republicans, and I often wish for more choices than that. Few people I know are straight-party voters, or so they say.

In general, I’m looking for people who support public schools. I want to know that the candidates I choose understand that there’s nothing conservative about gutting state services to the point that roads and bridges crumble and schools have to lay off thousands of teachers.

And to be clear, there’s a good chance that if you say things like this…

For years now we have been taught wrong. Our schools teach atheism and call it science. We are taught a revisionist view of American history, erasing our rich Christian heritage. We’re told that Christians don’t belong in the culture.

SD 41 candidate Paul Blair

…then I won’t vote for you. Come to think of it, I hope most Oklahomans – especially public school teachers – wouldn’t vote for somebody with that mindset. It shows ignorance and  a complete disrespect for what we do in our schools.

Other than the Blair race, the one that really interests me is one in Tulsa County, SD 25, featuring Lisa Kramer and Joe Newhouse. I can’t find anything damning about Newhouse, and Kramer as said she’d be willing to listen to a voucher proposal if public schools were fully funded (and the vouchers included some real accountability). It’s become one of the nastiest contests in the state, though.

In the end, it’s a sitting school board member who also happens to be an accountant and who hasn’t taken dark money from shady pro-voucher groups. As my friend at Blue Cereal Education put it:

Consider the value of having at least one person in state government who knows how math works, or who may just be old-school enough to think her job is to fix problems and serve constituents rather than cater to entrenched power – even if that power currently resides in the darkest recesses of her own party.

Her party, by the way, controls the House, the Senate, and all statewide elected positions in Oklahoma. In spite of what they insist, they can’t put their heads together and raise teacher salaries. No, the best they can do is pass a bill that makes all of us get lovely new license plates based on a drawing that somebody left on the butcher paper at a mall Garfield’s back in the mid 1990s.

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This was a way for the state to raise revenue without raising taxes, since – and again, in spite of one party controlling every major office of the government – they don’t have the votes to do it any other way.

This is what I’m talking about. We get the government we deserve because we don’t get more involved when these people are running.

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting with a reporter from Education Week who came to Oklahoma to talk about the teachers running for the legislature. He met with a few candidates, as well as some of my fellow activists. What I noticed is how our little movement here is not the only one nationally. The reporter summed up our collective influence, though:

When legislators earlier this year tried to pass through a bill that would expand the use of taxpayer funded vouchers, the group flooded their inboxes and lobbied them on Twitter under the hashtag #oklaed. Despite a robo call from Gov. Fallin to voters in support of the bill, it failed.

“What we’ve seen is a strong bipartisan movement in favor in public education. And the voices have been heard by legislators,” said David Blatt, the executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a Tulsa-based bipartisan think tank.

No matter what happens tomorrow and in November, #oklaed has made a difference already this year. The magnitude of our impact is still to be determined. The number of educators and concerned parents who get to the polls will determine how strong it is.

 

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  1. cal hobson
    August 24, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    I can’t improve on what Ms Rita Geiger offered but I will add to it. Maybe, just maybe, Oklahomans are slowly coming to their senses about state services such as education and health care. For example 87% of Purcell voters cast yes votes yesterday to raise their own sales tax by one red cent. They had to in order to keep their hospital from closing. Of course it didn’t have to be this way but the republican dumbbells in the legislature and of course the governor’s office have refused for years to accept our own money back from Washington to expand Medicaid. Dare I print the word? Translated that means accept OBAMACARE dollars that are sitting in DC for us totaling almost $1 billion greenbacks that instead are flowing to hospitals in 31 other states.

    Thus we have the worst of both worlds. We pay more to keep our medical complex open while other states spend our money that could have been used for the same purpose here.

    Upon reflection I guess it’s not the worst of all worlds. That would be for voters to keep electing these Tea Party political morons who got us in this mess in the first place. And tragically too many teachers, for some unfathomable reason, register as republicans which only encourages, aids, and abets the anti-public education know nothings who currently run Oklahoma.

    For educators who have been around for awhile you will remember that HB 1017, the education and revenue bill of 1990, didn’t just happen. Almost every democrat voted for it. Almost every republican legislator against. I know. I was there counting votes to make sure we could pass it. And dedicated teachers walked in the rain for five days straight surrounding the capitol building until we delivered for our kids. The law also gave educators a $7,500 raise spread over 5 years and also lowered class size, bought books, technology, etc.

    As Ms Rita has so wisely pointed out it does matter who you vote for………or against. November 8 will be here soon and if any republican incumbent tells you he/she is for you, public schools, our kids, and learning opportunities in this state you can tell them for me he/she is a damn liar. As a group they have eroded the tax base, pushed vouchers and private schools, shoved more and more regulations down schools’ throats, cancelled all earmarked money for textbooks, guaranteed our teachers are now 50th in the nation in teacher salaries and 49th in spending per child.

    So if teachers, superintendents, principals, counselors, librarians, psychologists, bus drivers, cooks, security personnel, etc, etc, vote for their smiling, friendly, sympathetic but obviously phony local republican house or senate member on November 8th then they are even dumber than the lawmakers asking to be reelected. And that is saying a lot.

    In closing, and as an example, I was campaigning last week for a bright, young, pro public education lady here in central Oklahoma and dropped by to see a school administrator I’ve known for years to ask for his support. He said “sorry I can’t stand Barack Obama so I changed my registration to republican six years ago”.

    His very school also is now on a four day schedule, charges for everything from after school athletics to probably toilet paper, cancels extra curriculum learning activities, dropped a number of art and music options, etc. Also cut several teaching positions and raised class size.

    This guy probably thinks those negative consequences for his students are also the President’s fault. They are not but it sure makes for a handy excuse at the local coffee shop. I know. I hear it every morning. So do many of you.

    Sincerely,

    Cal Hobson
    Former Somebody in Oklahoma Politics

    Liked by 1 person

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