Thompson: Oklahoma Education Battles Are Worthy of National Attention
This is a fascinating time for Oklahoma schools. As school funding was cut by more than 20% over the last five years, and in the face of a $610 million state budget shortfall, out-of-state corporate reformers, ranging from the American Federation for Children and ALEC to the Parent Revolution, have stepped up their attacks on traditional public schools. The most noteworthy assaults include the secretive local effort to cut funding for Oklahoma City Public Schools to pay for tax breaks for the downtown corporate elites, and the now-defeated state voucher bill.
On the other hand, a grass roots rebellion by parents against high-stakes testing swept out the former Chief for Change Janet Baressi. Now, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has rebuilt the partnerships with professional educators, started a public dialogue, and taken the first steps towards ending the test, sort, and punish policies that have been wrecking our schools.
A growing body of education bloggers along with innovative media outlets like the Red Dirt Report and Oklahoma Watch, as well as more Old School progressive institutions such as the Oklahoma Observer, the Oklahoma Gazette, and the Oklahoma Policy Institute, are publicizing the facts that, previously, the conservative press never deemed fit to print.
This week, the venerable Oklahoma Observer, under its masthead which promises to “Comfort the Afflicted and Afflict the Comfortable,” published an email informing Oklahoma City staff about SB 68 which had quietly passed the state Senate. (Scroll to the bottom of the post to read the memo.) It would allow Oklahoma City and Tulsa to unilaterally authorize charters. Republican Sen. David Holt emailed, “I wanted to give you a brief heads-up on a bill that passed the Senate today that has flown a bit under the radar, and that’s partly by design. But, the progress it is making might eventually be noticed, and I want you to hear from me what is intended. If it becomes law, it is a game changer for our city.”
Holt then explained, “Here at the Capitol, I have not portrayed the bill as a request bill, which of course it is not. I have told my colleagues it is important that OKC not publicly ask for the bill, as that may cause tension in the relationship with OKCPS.”
The rationale for this secretive effort to allow the city to compete with the school system is, “You meet with OKCPS, and they promise to do better, but you have a different perspective than OKCPS. They want their current school sites to succeed, and that’s a worthy goal, but that is the extent of their ambition.”
But, the Red Dirt Report’s Brett Dickerson reports that City Councilman Dr. Ed Shadid broke with This Week In Education: Thompson: Oklahoma Education Battles Are Worthy of National Attention - Linkis.com: