We have a lot of new members in Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education. This is awesome. There are some real concerns that keep surfacing in discussions that I thought I would attempt to address. I do not pretend to speak for the group leadership or for everyone who has been helping in the fight. So if what I type is not helpful maybe one of the list leaders can just delete in a hurry. Civil feedback is appreciated.
A note from a group member about who we are and what we do in OKPE4PE.
Here is what I have come to understand about this group and why it is working. And it is working, I am sure of that. We may not be where we want to be, but we are far better off because of the efforts of the members of OPE4PE.
1. We support public education. This includes pro-ed policies and it includes funding. It includes teachers. No one thinks all teachers are perfect, but we are about supporting teachers and building up the profession as part of our support for public education. This is not the place to vent about problems with individual schools or teachers.
2. We are not going to wait until election day to do something about the problems. Lobbying is a huge industry in the USA because it works. It makes no sense to sit on our hands until election day while lobbyists representing out-of-state special interests tell our legislators how we want them to vote. We think it is better if Oklahoma voters tell Oklahoma politicians what they think.
3. We have learned a lot. One of the things we have learned is that it is good to be nice when lobbying. It does no good to go into a legislators office and insult them and then ask for their vote. Our power is our ability to state our case honestly supported by relevant facts. And we have a lot of facts on our side.
4. We say thank you when a legislator votes our way. We even thank those who usually don’t when they support us on a particular bill. They are not used to this and it messes with their idea of who they think we are. In a good way. They know we won’t be thanking them when they vote against us. If they make a politically risky vote they need to know that they have support for it.
5. Many of our victories have been passed by a coalition of D’s and R’s. If we have to we will build a different coalition for each bill. Sometimes it really goes our way. SB1170 passed the senate Yea 94, Nay 0, and 7 excused. So a good number of Republicans voted in favor. Thank you! This bill eliminates End of Instruction tests. EOI’s were a big (and failed) part of the reformers agenda. Repealing EOI’s will save money and time. It is a win on all levels. This may not have been possible just a year ago.
6. It is important for politicians to know that there are lots of Republicans who are not politicians who support education and do not believe that a vote against education or teachers is Conservative or Republican. I am one of them. Perhaps I should phrase it in a positive manner. Politicians need to understand that there are Republican voters who support public education and teachers. They do not view it as a liberal social program. And I, for one, believe that keeping both parties positively involved in public schools is necessary for a healthy country. One party rule can be bad no matter what the issue.
In general, partisan rhetoric does not get much love here, though many of us have partisan opinions. All of us who are informed Republicans know of the consistently poor record of our party on education in our state. We know how the teaching profession has been demonized. But informed Democrats know of the problems caused by the Obama administration and Sec. Ed Arne Duncan. Bill Gates happens to identify as a Democrat as well. They have been pushing teacher evaluations based on student tests, charter schools, control of the curriculum, and many of the same reforms the Republicans have pushed in Oklahoma. The same reforms passed here by Republicans were passed in California and New York by Democrats. And us old fossils in the group remember how the Democratic party managed to keep our education funding hovering from 48 to 50th in the USA since statehood. We could argue about all of that and which party to blame. Some would like to. But we are just not going to go there. We are going to support legislators who support public education regardless of what letter is after their name. We are going to begin the process of change. But all politicians, no matter what party, are going to hear from us, and especially from the group members who live in their districts.
So I know that some are going to puzzle about how we can support “Republicans” because of what they have done to education. And the best answer I can give is that we are going to support those who support public education without regard to party. This includes current members and those running for office.
7 . We are also going to encourage parents and teachers to register to vote and to vote. Politicians have access to voter information and it is easy enough for them to see if teachers are voting. We all need to vote.
8. We are going to keep it civil as much as possible. We all know that the situation in Oklahoma is infuriating. But we do our best work when we channel all that energy into positive productive thought and action.
One last thing. This group works because of the energetic and enthusiastic support of parents. This has been missing in previous years for a host of reasons that are not anyone’s fault. Thanks to a lot of work and good use of social media parents are more involved now than ever. Parent and community support is key to moving forward. Thanks to all!