Those of you who know me well understand that there has been one person who has been there for me my whole life – my mom. She was a teacher, for 29 years, in Chickasha and Norman. I can’t think of anyone who has influenced me more. She’s probably the biggest reason I chose to be an educator. Tonight, she has authored a guest post that I hope you’ll enjoy.
My name is Ellen Kanak. I’d like to offer my two cents about public education. I am a product of public common and higher education. I am a mom and a grandmother of children who have been well-served by public education. I am a retired teacher who is old enough to have seen education policy change in many ways. I am closely following legislation, legislators, and policy decisions that have the potential to help or harm public education. I am an unapologetic, fierce advocate for public education. I know that other retired educators are as well. The time is now to act to elect Oklahoma legislators who will advance legislation that supports all of our children, their parents, teachers, and staff.
I began teaching in the dark ages. In 1971, there was no free and appropriate education for all. Students with special needs and their families had to really scramble to find ways to have a quality education. This was when I was first introduced to advocacy. Later, I became a building representative for my school district’s teachers’ organization before I even knew what a building rep does. I learned pretty quickly though, and in time I learned just how important that advocacy is. I helped storm the Capitol in 1990 and the result was HB 1017. This bill helped public education in really significant ways. It was a bipartisan effort that helped better fund our schools and put in place appropriate policies that addressed class size and other issues that impact our students in positive ways. I’ve also seen setbacks—many have occurred over the last ten years or so. Some occurred soon after HB 1017 was enacted, because we didn’t stay focused on maintaining the progress and work to further advance education policy. It was thrilling to see a new Superintendent of Public Instruction elected a couple of years ago, but again we quit paying attention and ended up with some legislators who are not friendly to our purpose.
The primaries are settled. As we prepare for the November general election, candidates have been clearly identified as pro-public education—or not! We have choices in both parties; we have independent candidates as well. Individuals and groups have worked tirelessly to give us good choices. Two of my favorite sources are Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education and Okeducationtruths. For the purpose of full disclosure, I am Rick Cobb’s mother, so he is my “most favorite.” Other favorite advocates are Claudia Swisher, Rob Miller, Dallas Koehn, and Angela Clark Little. It is especially gratifying to me to see parents, students, teachers, support staff, school boards, superintendents, and many other community members working together for the common good.
Will you join me in a willingness to cross party lines to elect the best candidate for each legislative position? Those of us who are retired have seen political parties evolve and sometimes devolve. Social issues are mostly sorted out at the federal level while issues of public education and other core services are developed more at the state level. We have great candidates in both parties and in no party, and we need to support them with financial contributions as well as giving time to get them elected. They have been clearly identified–as have the candidates who will work against the greater good in order to divert public money to private schools (vouchers, ESAs and such).
Our children need and deserve our support. Their futures depend on quality public education. Many of our children also desperately need other core services that have been drastically cut. Let’s send a message to our leaders and candidates. We don’t want excuses. We want you to care about all of our citizens. We expect you to do your job for all of us.
Let’s do this, friends! Let’s reboot and move forward for a great outcome this November. Be sure to register to vote if you haven’t already. Know where your precinct is. Mark your calendar. Show up November 8 and help send the right people to the legislature!