Friday, November 4, 2016

OKLAHOMA HD14 - Candidate Profile: Lee Ann Langston (D) | Blue Cereal Education

HD14 - Candidate Profile: Lee Ann Langston (D) | Blue Cereal Education:

HD14 - Candidate Profile: Lee Ann Langston (D) |


Lee Ann Langston - House Distrct 14 - http://www.leeannlangston.com/


There are many fresh faces running for state office this year – it’s sometimes difficult to keep up. That’s a good problem to have. 
Langston14While Lee Ann Langston is new to the race to represent House District 14, she’s very much NOT new to holding office, navigating bureaucracy, reconciling diverse needs and viewpoints, or finding creative ways to solve problems and meet needs. In fact, holding state office may be the one thing she HASN’T done in public service to date. 
That’s something we’re hoping to rectify this year. I love the energy and ideals of those new to the world of politics and its complexities – but let’s not ignore how useful it can be to have allies in the mix who have practical experience making things happen in similar circumstances. Lee Ann Langston is just such an ally. 
Langston is a long-time resident of and advocate for Muskogee, where she and her husband of 41 years raised their daughter and continue to fight for their community and the residents thereof.  She has a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Northeastern State University and worked for Muskogee Public Schools as both an elementary teacher and principal. She’s also taught math at Connors State College. 
While that’s an impressive enough resume for anyone, it’s her work beyond the classroom which makes her particularly valuable to #OklaEd. She’s created, led, or served too many programs and organizations to list - enabling low-income youth to find employment, helping dislocated workers secure new positions, giving unemployed or under-employed adults access to education and experience to enable them to better provide for their families, etc. 
She’s secured grants from the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education and helped administer the National Emergency Grant (NEG) for those displaced after Hurricane Katrina and the Trade Adjustment Act (TAA) for workers whose employers move out of the country. (As someone who has trouble doing my own taxes, I find this particularly reassuring.)
Langston brought the idea of an “in school” alternative program to Muskogee’s elementary schools – where students who would otherwise have been expelled or suspended were taught in a separate classroom and given ready access to mental health services – before that was a thing schools generally did. It’s an approach that neither ignores discipline problems nor denies underlying issues, but focuses on workable solutions that lead to student accountability AND student success. 
We could attempt this sort of thing more often at a legislative level, if you ask me. 
One of my favorites is a public school/church partnership she developed for Muskogee Schools with First United Methodist, called “First Choice.” They created and maintain an after-school mentoring/tutoring program for students – a wonderful example of how institutions of faith and public schools can work together effectively without trampling on the First Amendment. 
And they didn’t even have to repeal Blaine!
There are other chairs and memberships and committees and such, but let’s just summarize by saying that Lee Ann Langston seems to have a gift for getting things done alone or in groups, in charge or taking orders, working privately or in office. I don’t want to overstate the case, but how many sitting legislators can accurately claim the same?
Still, don’t let her accomplishments or her diplomatic history leave you with the impression she’s some sweet little country school teacher who might be taken off-guard by the roughness of politics. 
I am 66 years young and will not be a career politician. 
When I was a principal, I was not popular with some teachers because I required accountability for the education and safety of students first. Our school was in a highly transient, low socioeconomic neighborhood. I encouraged creativity, active teaching, and wouldn’t accept excuses for why students weren’t achieving. 
I believed then, and still do, that discipline involves teaching, not punishment. Consequences for behaviors should equal the infraction and be based on the individual student and what works best for him/her.
Yes ma’am!
Ms. Langston was kind enough to respond to a few questions about the many issues facing #OklaEd these days.
What – if anything – are you willing to do to reverse the massive cuts to public education in Oklahoma in recent years?  
I am willing to do almost anything to reverse the cuts to public education in Oklahoma.  
We MUST abolish massive incentives to corporations that are wasted when they decide “the grass is greener” (i.e., the profits for THEM are greater) overseas or in another state.  
Private prisons are a scam and need to be eliminated entirely. The primary goal of prison should never be profit. These private prisons provide little, if any, rehabilitation and their profit is based only on the number of inmates they RETAIN. We’re spending more money per prisoner than we are on education per pupil. It’s time to acknowledge that money spent on education is not only better-spent, but lowers the number of prisoners. 
We must demand livable wages for our seasoned, excellent teachers—who often give up tremendous potential financial growth to teach our children.  We must, at the same time, develop stringent standards for teachers who educate our children and hold them accountable so the parents of our children value teachers at the level of professionals in other fields.
How can/should Oklahoma appropriately support public education in times of fiscal crisis? Most of us agree on the problems – what are your ideas regarding solutions?  
We must weigh the benefits of tax incentives for entities subject only to the will of their shareholders against the collective benefits of preparing our children for a regularly changing workforce. Teachers should not have to wake up and read on the front page of their newspapers that their jobs and hundreds (or thousands) of others are being eliminated because stockholders want more profits!
ESAs / Vouchers / “School Choice” have been hot topics recently. Do you support any version of anything falling under these umbrellas, and if so, would you be willing to give us an idea of what that might look like?  
“Magnet Schools” (run correctly) should not be included in this category.  In fact, I have no problem with that concept, again, if done correctly.  
ESAs/Vouchers/”School Choice” should be called what they truly are—public funds redirected into private schools for the wealthy and prejudiced. They are NOT equal, and they cater to upper class families who wish to have tax dollars allocated to private schools. 
The vast majority of taxpayers want, and expect, public education to provide their children with the best education possible. That’s not an unreasonable expectation.  
I’ve done extensive research on vouchers and very few low-income families would be able to afford to utilize them, especially once you factor in the costs of uniforms, books, transportation, extra-curricular activities, etc. 
Some families may believe their children are experiencing a better school when, in fact, their children are viewed as (and sometimes treated as) an obligatory minority, a lower-income child, etc.  Those children often excel in public schools when they have excellent teachers, which should be our goal.
Although somewhat overshadowed by the Voucher Wars, several other ideas have been bandied about as possible solutions to the current under-funding of #OklaEd – consolidation, 4-day school weeks, etc. Are there any ideas out there you believe deserve a closer look in some form or another?   
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