Yesterday’s showdown in the State House of Representatives over HB2625 and the widely circulated negative response from State Superintendent of Schools Janet Barresi said much about where her loyalties lie, where the attacks originate, and what should be done next by teachers who teach, know, and love their students.
House Bill 2625 Passes
The current law gives extraordinary weight to a test given on one day at the end of the third grade and determines whether each student is retained or promoted to the fourth grade. Forget everything else that the student has achieved during the year.
The HB2625 was authored by Katie Henke, R-Tulsa, and is described in today’s report by The Oklahoman:
“Henke’s bill, as amended by the state Senate, would create a two-year window during which students who score unsatisfactory on the test could still be promoted if they can obtain the unanimous recommendation from a team consisting of the student’s parents or guardians, the student’s reading teacher for the past year, a reading teacher at the next grade level, the school principal and a certified reading specialist.”
It passed yesterday and is on Gov. Fallin’s desk waiting here action. She has until the day before the last day of this legislative session to sign it.
Barresi on the Attack
The latest of a long string of attacks was on May 9th when Supt. Barresi released scores and numbers of pass/fails to the media before local districts had the chance to talk to students and parents. Some superintendents were still waiting on the phone or the SDE website for scores when the media started calling about their scores. It revealed a zeal to openly attack public schools and shame those districts who did not do well, no matter what the social circumstances of their students. This account of the negative treatment of Crutcho Schools by KFOR in Oklahoma City because of that SDE PR stunt is only one example of the damage done by an outfit very focused on harming public schools.
Who sent Janet Barresi to the helm of the Oklahoma State Department of Education? It wasn’t the teachers. Several legislators have said that it is widely known among them that only around 30% of Oklahoma teachers voted in the last elections and others before that. More on that below.
Instead, Barresi was swept into office by a tide of anti-government, vote-against-Obama sentiment that was heavily funded by corporate interests and coordinated by ALEC and other national groups determined to take over state capitols across the nation for a small minority of the wealthiest people in America.
Who Owns Barresi?
The biggest turnout was from those voters who were mad about two things: having that black president in the first place, and that he was running again. They made sure to turn out the vote against him and just about everything and everyone who they suspected of not hating President Obama. The results showed an even more red state than in the 2008 elections. It had down-ticket impact on every other race in the election, including Barresi’s.
She will always be owned by the corporate interests that sent her to the SDE in the first place. That is a simple truth. The phone calls that she is sure to answer are from coordinators at Governor Fallin’s office, ALEC, and right-wing think tank Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. The rest of us will have to leave a message. They may get back to us this term. Or maybe not.
What are those interests? As I pointed out in a previous post, massive amounts of money have been thrown into the state by private charter school corporations who want to replace public schools with private corporate schools controlled by millionaires in other states.
Also, right-wing political interests that have little to do directly with education, funded by oil and gas corporations, and out of state shadow donors, want an anti-teachers-union superintendent who will vigorously oppose one of the last several effective unions still standing in the state. What better attack vector can there be than controlling the State Superintendent of Schools? It was a very brilliant and darkly evil strategy that did not consider the children of Oklahoma in the least. It was and still is all about the political win for right-wing domination of Oklahoma government.
So the question is this: Do we want a State Supt. of Schools who is influenced by donors who live out of state and, for the most part, are not even known or identified? Or do we want a superintendent who is selected through a wide, democratic process of primaries and elections and supported by Oklahomans who operate in the open and are openly identified?
Teachers and others committed to a truly public education for all of Oklahoma’s children, and controlled by known Oklahoma interests, will need to get out and campaign for the candidates that they believe will best meet that goal. But it means being involved in the political process.
You don’t like politics, teachers? I know. Most of us don’t. We just want to teach. But, the argument that I made in this post still stands. It’s not an option whether you are involved in politics if you care about the children of Oklahoma. You must get out and vote. You must be engaged at some level.
How do you plan on engaging in this process in this election year? There are only five months until election day. Time to get busy.