In August, KFOR-TV reported that Oklahoma ranked 45th in education among the states and the District of Columbia, citing the Annie E. Casey Kids Count Data Book survey.
You would think that anyone who cared about education would assess this deplorable situation and try to rectify the problem. But, Republicans Gov. Kevin Stitt and state superintendent candidate Ryan Walters want to siphon off public education money through school vouchers, and Walters wants to refuse all federal education funding.
Walters calls voucher theft “school choice.” Parents already have the choice of where to educate their children. The choice voters face next month is whether to pay private schools instead of their local districts.
Along with raiding state coffers, our Republican leaders concentrated on such issues as banning transgender students from sports participation. Lotsa hoopla. Plenty publicity. And Oklahoma became one of 18 states to impose such a ban.
And, as I speculated at the time, the Huffington Post reported last month that Oklahoma is one of five of those states that “have not had any recorded cases of trans athletes playing school sports at all.”
Forget Republican small-government claims. Instead of improving our school system, in 2021 the Lege enacted Stitt’s mandate forbidding local school districts from requiring face masks unless the governor declared a state of emergency.
Also last month, the state Supreme Court ruled that such top-down governance was too restrictive for Oklahoma school districts.
Toadying to Donald Trump was more important to Stitt than the health of students, teachers, staff and those at home who might suffer the consequences of a deadly pandemic. So, what else are Stitt and Walters doing about education? Attacking teachers.
Last month in another of many false flag stunts, Stitt “issued an Executive Order to ensure Oklahoma’s teachers’ and school district employees’ right to decline an invitation and fees to join a union,” according to KFOR-TV.
Walters chimed in, calling teachers unions “mandatory enslavement.”
They are both liars lying.
According to Oklahoma Education Association President Katherine Bishop: “We have always been an opt-in organization since our first meeting in 1889. The Executive Order filed on Aug. 19, 2022, is a baseless attack on the voices of educators ahead of an important election.”
With such anti-educationists at the helm, it is no wonder that Oklahoma ranked 48th last month in academic and work environment for teachers, according to WalletHub. The state had an overall teaching rating of 34th.
That is a bit deceptive since the state ranks 14th in opportunity and compensation. With more than 3,000 non-certified teachers getting special permits last year, there is a lot of opportunity for qualified teachers.
The state teacher shortage is so dire that the University of Oklahoma has announced incentives which could reach $25,500 for students majoring in education who teach in state schools for at least five years.
And what are the Republicans concentrating on? Banning books, censoring lesson plans and punishing any person or institution that offends their worldview.
State Supt. Joy Hofmeister’s frustration with the state’s anti-education faction led her to change parties, win the Democratic nomination and challenge Stitt for governor.
With her leadership, that of state superintendent candidate Jena Nelson and some pro-education legislators (yes, Republicans!), state schools could earn the passing grades that their students need.
(Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party: <scdpok.us> or <facebook.com/SCDPOK/>.)