Thursday, August 1, 2013

Weekly Column: Priorities - Education system, or our children?

With over half of our state budget being placed towards public education every year, it’s no surprise that the education system is always a hot topic at the Oklahoma State Capitol building. Of any issue that is dealt with in state government, education is by far the most divisive and controversial. The cause is from so many different views on how the system should be run. Oklahoma is very unique in the fact that we are the only state to have the requirement to fund education written into our constitution. Where the discussion begins however, is how to best allocate that funding.

The differing views on education within the legislature often reveal a rural representation/urban representation split. The needs, wants, and problems are completely different between rural and urban school districts. Those differences are very well represented in our elected officials. 

We go back and forth on educational spending, curriculum, administration, mandates, and regulations. There have been many times where I have stepped back and challenged my colleagues to not get wrapped up in the numbers and details. We become so worried about education that we forget about the student. We talk about spending and mandates on school districts, all the while forgetting we are shaping someone’s future. It is a dangerous path to walk when our children become a number in an accounting book or a school report card.

It is for that reason that cannot agree with the one-size-fits-all model that is increasingly being pushed upon our educators, districts, and children. Talking with teachers and administrators within my district I know now more than ever it is happening in many different forms through unfunded mandates and even curriculum change. No mandate will ever increase the learning capacity of a child. However, a parent and a teacher can and will. Control needs to be given from as close to a student as possible, not from an office in Oklahoma City.

When we start asking what’s right for our students and not just the state’s pocketbook or its convenience; that’s when we will truly start to shape their futures. Yes, I am a rural legislator. Yes, I am a Republican. However, neither of those facts should or do change doing what is right for the children in our state. That is something we should all agree on.

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