Talking Around the Table with TulsaPLAC

Tulsa Parent Legislative Action Committee is made up of volunteers advocating for a strong public school system

Last night I went to the Tulsa Parent Legislative Action Committee’s (OKPLAC) legislative forum. TulsaPLAC rganizers invited area legislators to meet with constituents at the Wilson Teaching and Learning Academy. Parents, teachers and concerned citizens sat at round tables with their policy-maker(s) to have a conversation about public schools.

OKPLAC is “a nonpartisan, statewide organization of passionate volunteer advocates committed to promoting public policies that protect, support and strengthen the public school system in the Sate of Oklahoma.”

The organization’s 2020 legislative goals are the following:

  1. Safe, high-quality public schools with professionally trained, certified teachers and reduced class sizes.
  2. Ensure public money goes to public schools with full equity, transparency and accountability.
  3. Resist privatization, voucher & tax credit expansions

I sat at a table with Representative Carol Bush. There was an elementary school teacher, whose daughter was also a teacher, a high school teacher, a dad, an elementary school principal and a PTA representative at the table.

Some of the concerns I heard expressed were large class sizes and lack of support for teachers who are dealing with children (even at the elementary school level) who are emotionally disturbed and sometimes violent. Rep. Bush said there is a bill coming in this session that would provide a mental health counselor for every 250 children.

Another concern was the Teach for America (TFA) and emergency certified teachers creating churn and turnover of staff in Tulsa schools. One woman pointed out that Hale’s faculty was constantly turning over by half or more because, as she said, TFA and emergency certified teachers were unprepared for the classroom.

Unfunded mandates by the Oklahoma Legislature was another sticking point for the teachers at the table. Rep. Bush admitted that there were “red meat” and headline-getting bills that did little to advance education in Oklahoma, but she felt that, at least in the House, lawmakers were working together in positive ways, including reviewing funding formulas.

The next Legislative session begins Feb. 3, 2020. TulsaPLAC and OKPLAC will have updates and events, including a day at the capitol in February for parents and others who are interested.

The Oklahoma Policy Institute provided a wrap-up of the last Legislative session regarding education, and gives a look ahead to the upcoming session. Find that here.

Categories: Editor’s Blog