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Educational Issues That Unite Oklahomans

June 24, 2022 by Tom Deighan

The upcoming elections illustrate why Oklahoma educators do not vote consistently. We are simply weary of voting either for or against what’s happening in faraway places like Seattle. Lately, statewide elections seem more driven by national educational trends than by Oklahoma issues. Thankfully, Oklahoma parents and educators agree more than we disagree, so let’s consider a few ideals that may unite rather than divide us.   

Local Control: “Local control” is a buzzword in this election, but many politicians really mean “local control when you agree with me.”  In response to COVID, dueling central planners attempted to either force or ban adoption of just about everything.  Meanwhile, kid-level parents and educators did their best to manage a pandemic – while being accused by both sides of endangering lives.  To restore the local parent-teacher partnership, both sides will need to curb their addiction to central planning.

Safety and Security: Although school shootings are very rare, the consequences are catastrophic. Politics disappear when someone points a gun at a kid, so our first step must be to staff schools with trained, armed professionals. This could be funded through a small tax on guns and ammo. Once schools are safe, we can begin rebuilding critical juvenile justice and mental health systems. Schools could not manage a respiratory pandemic, and we cannot manage a mental health pandemic. Don’t ALL parents want Safe, Caring, Healthy, Orderly, Open, Learning, Spaces (S.C.H.O.O.L.S.)?      

No Hidden Agendas or Indoctrination:  The “poster rule” is a good guideline.  If something cannot be displayed on a poster in the hallway for all parents and students to see, then the school district might reconsider its appropriateness. The parental right of input and output is another good place to start. Responsible parents deserve full access to everything the school inputs and everything their child outputs.  When we keep secrets from parents, we ask for trouble.

Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities:  By policy and practice, America’s public schools are the least discriminatory institutions imaginable.  Americans uniformly demand that all students be treated equally regarding race, sex, religion, etc. Likewise, we also recognize that we can never guarantee equal outcomes . . . only equal opportunities.  Not all kids can do a pull-up, but all kids deserve the chance to try.  When we demand equal outcomes, we risk equal opportunities.  Equal rights and equal opportunities provide a good balance.

Relevant and Rigorous Academics: For the past twenty years, leaders have been truly bipartisan regarding adding layer upon layer of unfunded mandates to schools.  Furthermore, over a decade of curriculum confusion has robbed an entire generation of students.  Let’s focus on graduation rates and college and career readiness, backwards designing everything from PK forward. Every community in our state would be proud of a 100% graduation rate with Adult-Ready Graduates, so let’s make what matters matter.

Faith-Affirming Schools:  Public schools celebrate all sorts of diversity, but for nearly 60 years, we have systematically alienated people of faith. Schools would never consider marginalizing people based on their sex or race, but people of faith currently feel like outsiders in many public schools. We must welcome diversity of faith just as we do sex and race. Nothing else is legal or appropriate; just Google it: USDE Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer and Religious Expression in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools.

Public Money, Public Rules:  Oklahomans love freedom and the free market, but we also seek transparency and accountability in regard to public funds.  School choice does not threaten most public schools, but we cannot accept continued abuse of public education funds as seen in recent indictments or in unrestricted individual purchases of valuable educational tools like backyard grills, coffee makers, and Christmas trees.  Public Money, Public Rules can strike the balance for responsible school choice.

Oklahomans simply want Oklahoma centric, kid-level solutions implemented with consistency by effective state educational leaders. We want to be united, not divided. When that message and candidate arises, he or she will see support on an unprecedented scale, and Oklahoma education will thrive.

Tom Deighan is author of Shared Ideals in Public Schools. You may email him at  deighantom@gmail.com and read past articles at www.mostlyeducational.com

By grace, 

Tom Deighan

Superintendent

Duncan Public Schools

Office Number 580-255-0686

 

Public educators welcome all . . . serve all . . . love all.