Oklahoma Legislators Need a Lesson Plan
Here are a few quick essay questions for Oklahoma legislators.
- Define the term American Exceptionalism and discuss its connection to AP US History.
- Write an argumentation essay using the following prompt: Vouchers are bad for public education. (note: the term “voucher” may be used interchangeably with the terms “school choice,” “parental choice,” and “Education Savings Accounts” or ESAs)
- Examine the rhetorical power of using words such as “choice,” “opportunity,” “scholarship,” “prosperity,” and “school options” when naming and/or discussing legislation dealing with the destruction and defunding of public education.
With the radical ideas coming out of the Oklahoma legislature in the past couple of weeks, I had to quit blogging in order to catch my breath and keep from having a stroke. I have to believe that the supporters of these bills simply haven’t thought things through. Maybe if they sat down and wrote an essay about what they’re proposing, they would stop and think about the consequences.
They’re churning out nutty bills so fast that I can barely keep up. The optimist in me believes that if they would just take a breath and develop some kind of overarching idea, some concept, a framework – a lesson plan, if you will – they might be able to actually support, reform and fund public education in sensible ways that help all children succeed.
Consider House Bill 1380, by Rep. Murdock, which would outlaw the teaching of AP US History. Apparently, the author of this bill is opposed to AP US History because it doesn’t teach “American Exceptionalism.” What does that even mean? That we don’t want pesky facts clouding our children’s impressionable minds? So, who decides what will be taught? Will certain groups with agendas get to pick and choose what children learn? Maybe they’ll learn that our government has only two branches of government, as one of our Oklahoma congressmen said at one of his town halls. I certainly would rather have educators and scholars deciding what my children learn about history than legislators with a political agenda.
Besides, weren’t legislators saying they wanted government out of our schools? Or is that just when it’s politically convenient? I, for one, am grateful for AP classes because it saved my family quite a lot of money when our children went to college. Our son graduated in three years, partly due to the number of AP classes he was able to take. Those AP classes certainly made my kids “college and career ready”!
And then there’s the embarrassment factor. My husband and I are meeting some friends in Austin soon. They’re coming in from Seattle, and their son is a student at the University of California at Berkley. I can’t wait to discuss how students from Oklahoma will never have the opportunity to compete scholastically with the rest of the country because we don’t want them to learn too much. We only want them to learn what certain state legislators think they should learn.
Moving on…. Senator Clark Jolley has introduced Senate Bill 609, the “Oklahoma Education Empowerment Scholarship Act,” which passed the Senate Education Committee. (I should be surprised by that, but I’m not.) Sen. Jolley sure gave it a fancy name. It sounds great, doesn’t it? No matter what you call it, the bill is a school voucher bill. The bill would allow parents and guardians to create Education Savings Accounts to use wherever they want. That might actually sound like a decent idea until you think about it for a minute. Let’s assume that it’s constitutional and it doesn’t get stuck somewhere in the courts. Vouchers, like many school “reform” ideas, help a few individuals, but they do nothing to actually implement real reform. And, like many “reforms,” they harm children living in poverty the most.
Having a voucher to put your child in a private school, assumes that:
- you have the reliable transportation and time to get your child to a private school
- the school you choose has space, and wants to take your child
- if your child has emotional, developmental, physical or mental delays, the school you choose will be able to address those issues and, again, wants your child
- you can afford to make up the cost not covered by the Education Savings Account
- you can afford fees and other hidden costs of a private school
- you have a school or other educational option in your community. Students in rural areas or small towns may not even have a place to use a voucher, and parents may not want to homeschool.
These are just a few of the problems that come to mind with vouchers. I’m sure many parents who already send their children to private schools would love to have the extra money to help with tuition. I don’t blame them. I would, too. But that’s not the function of public tax dollars. Certainly Mr. Jolley wants to help all children, not just a few.
And, I find it interesting that many of our policy-makers in the legislator keep hammering on “Oklahoma values,” and Oklahoma developing its own educational objectives, and Oklahoma going its own way. As I’ve written before, most of these school “reform” ideas are not from Oklahoma. They’re from ALEC, Chiefs for Change, the Gates Foundation and the Walton Foundation. Here’s an interesting blog about the voucher initiative as it relates directly to Senator Jolley’s bill and how interests outside the state are pushing it.
Whether you support these reforms or not, it’s best for parents to at least be informed about both sides of the issue.