Teachers: Oklahoma Children Deserve Political Protection, Too

Our children deserve our political protection as much as our face-to-face protection in the classroom.

It is time for Oklahoma teachers in even larger numbers to claim what we know from what we see every day in the classroom. That view is very different from that of lawyer legislators or corporate chieftains.

We are witnesses to the effects of bad and heartless legislation that only values our students as revenue sources for large education corporations. We are also witnesses to corrupt, crony politics in the State Department of Education.

Yes, It Is That Bad

Two blogs that have done an excellent job of exploring the details of these problems are middle school principal Rob Miller’s A View from the Edge and anonymously written OkEducationTruths.

Earlier posts on this blog have detailed abuses that have affected our children:

Personally Conservative, Professionally Progressive

Even though many of us are personally conservative, Oklahoma public school teachers at all levels tend to be more progressive than our neighbors when it comes to legislation and policies that affect children. It’s because we witness the direct effects of public policies on the poor and middle class every day. We are professionally progressive in that we have to teach whoever is sent to our classroom.

Frankly, people who want to teach, but not “those people’s kids” do not go into public education, or at least don’t stay for very long. And that is true for suburban schools just as much as for deep urban districts.

In earlier days, being a suburban public school teacher meant teaching to a homogeneous population. But, not anymore. Why?

Our suburbs are aging. Aging housing = less expensive housing. That has allowed for a more natural cross-section of American society to inhabit the suburbs.  So, our student populations there represent many more cultures and income levels than ever before.

But the view that teachers have of this cross-section of society doesn’t end in the urban and suburban schools anymore.

While rural school teachers in Eastern Oklahoma have generally seen a beautiful rainbow of Native American and other cultures up and down the economic scale, Western Oklahoma teachers used to teach a rather homogeneous population. Not anymore. Many schools in Western Oklahoma now have an influx of Spanish-speaking students whose parents are employed by large corporate farming operations.

And so, public school teachers everywhere now see the effects of poverty, middle class hardship, and bad public policy.

More Teachers Are Speaking Up

Now that conservative policies of a conservative-dominated legislature are generating more hardship for kids, Oklahoma’s teachers are seeing this and starting to speak up. No doubt, some of those now resisting, originally voted for the targets of their resistance.

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At the Rally for Education Funding at the Oklahoma State Capitol, March 31st

Just this winter more teachers and administrators and school staff than ever before showed up for a rally at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. This was a strong demonstration that a great many educators and supportive parents have had enough.

The latest amp-up of participation of teachers in the political process has come from the extremes of over-reach of the legislature, the governor, and the State Schools Superintendent, Janet Barresi.

The Effort Must Be More Long-term

It is easier and more fun to attack one unpopular state superintendent who should go. But, the involvement of teachers in the process must be deeper, and more long-term, than just removing one bad SDE chief.

More and more teachers are beginning to see more clearly the insidious corporate take-over of our state’s government by out-of-state education corporations that steer policy from afar.

Out-of-state, corporate-connected top staff at the SDE work feverishly to transfer the public wealth of our education system in Oklahoma over to corporate investors in other states. Legislators and our governor want to replace open public schools with tax-supported but exclusive charters.

The move toward corporate privatization of schools at taxpayer expense is now obvious.

If we allow that to happen, more and more of the poorest, disadvantaged students in Oklahoma will become even more marginalized than before. We know what we see and what we know about children in Oklahoma.

The smartest educators in Oklahoma will understand that it is only raw political pressure over the long-term that will force any new superintendent or legislature to do better and honor public education as a public good and public mission.