Forgive My Ignorance, I Have Some Questions

It’s my fault…I should have done a lot more of this earlier, but for the first time in my teaching career, I have been actively following all of the different items in my legislature. I have emailed and tweeted different politicians this year for the first time. I participated in my first education rally at the capital. Maybe I should have been doing these things for years, but trying to teach and help my students reach all of the different checkpoints mandated by the government, plus coaching, plus being a Dad and being a Husband…It seems that I haven’t had much time to do this. If only the legislature met in the summer…

Here is my ignorance – I truly don’t know and this is why I ask. Do private schools receive any funding from the state for the students they teach? Are they required to provide an IEP for students that qualify? Can they dismiss a student at any time? How are these schools evaluated by the state? Do their students have to take EOI’s and will their teachers be submitting roster verification? How do we know that these schools are “not failing”? I know that there are excellent private schools out there and I am not questioning the teachers and administrators in those schools, I am just wondering….

With the recent bill to increase charter schools – I know that they receive some state funding, but the same questions apply. If we are creating a bill that allows more charter schools into Oklahoma, to send more of our money out of state, why can we not make some changes to the way that public education is regulated? If our public education system is so bad (which I strongly disagree with), why are we not trying give public education some of the freedoms that the charter and private schools appear to have? Why are public schools the victim of such opinionated bashing? Our state newspaper editorial pages are very hostile toward public education and I don’t understand why. I don’t remember ever seeing one of their reporters spending a week with me during the school year and watching/seeing/learning/doing what I do…

I had a conversation with a colleague this week, we both discussed the merits of leaving Oklahoma to teach in another state.  We love our school, we are both super involved with the students, we both try and think outside the box, we truly want what is best for our kids.  But it is getting more and more difficult to do this.

The state representative for my district is Representative Mike Turner – his harsh opinions of my profession has been difficult to listen to, especially from someone who is a leader.  I was very frustrated with his comments that stated teachers were selfish, greedy, lobbyists.  I don’t understand why he would say that.  Where is the greed he mentions?  In Oklahoma a family of two earning $29,100 can qualify for WIC, first year teachers earn $31,600, this doesn’t seem greedy to me.  The members of the Oklahoma State House of Representatives earn $38,400 plus per diem for less time than a teacher will work.  Just based on this information, who is greedy?  I know that we spend over $13 million for state testing, that is documented and not opinionated, is this waste?  Is there a better way to determine student success?  What about all of this TLE business…I don’t mind being held accountable for my teaching, that is part of the job.  But when you tie assessment scores into my evaluation, isn’t that like saying to a:

  • Dentist: Make sure that 95% of your patients are cavity free or you will be put on probation for one year and must pay for intensive cavity fighting professional development.  If your cavity prevention rates do not improve you can no longer be a dentist.
  • Legislator: Make sure that you write at least 50 Bills and be sure that 95% of them pass.  If you do not write enough bills, you will be provided with an intensive three month long session on bill writing to help improve your bill writing skills.  If you do not get enough votes to pass, then you must go to a different session helping you to learn how to make your bills more successful (again you are required to attend and pay your own way).  If you cannot improve then you will be dismissed with no option of running for re-election.

I am not trying to put anyone down here, I know that there are great teachers in all different types of schools, I know that there are leaders in state agencies that are well intentioned, and I know that there are people in government that truly want what is best for students.  But I have some questions…Forgive my ignorance.

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