The journey to becoming a ‘top ten state’ in public education begins

2018 will easily go down as the year of the public school teacher in Oklahoma. Due to the plight of our dilapidated schools, deplorable textbooks, teacher turnover, and race to the bottom in public education funding - Oklahomans have spoken - enough is enough!

Oklahoma voters were smart enough to see through the typical political shenanigans with State Questions 800 & 801, which did nothing for public education except give excuses to the real issue: the legislature’s neglect to fund our public schools.

Oklahomans who have seen a decade of cuts to public schools and broken promises year after year are tired of these political games. Eliminating many anti-public education incumbents in the primaries and electing over 22 new “teacher caucus” members to the state legislature gives one a sense of hope for a brighter future in Oklahoma.

Many legislators that are pro-public education were elected and re-elected in the 2018 Oklahoma mid-term. Educators, parents, and public school advocates showed up and voted in unprecedented waves this year and sent the clear message that our kids are not to be messed with and our schools are not for sale.

However, we realize this mess was not created overnight and that the momentum must continue as we hold the line and defend our good local public schools against privatization, high stakes testing, and funding cuts.

Just as Jesus made clear in the Gospels, “the worker is worthy of his wages” - it is evident that we have not delivered to our educators a wage worthy of their incredibly important work in years past.

In October 2017 Governor-elect Kevin Stitt said, “If we want to recruit great teachers, we have to pay competitive salaries. If we want to attract and retain great jobs, we’ve got to have great schools.”

Becoming a “top ten state” in public education seems like fantasy for a state that has consistently ranked last for years. However it is not inconceivable to move the metric in the right direction with simple and common sense education reforms for which we advocate:

  1. STOP the movement to privatize public education - it is unproven, costly, and hurts our most vulnerable. Cooperation not competition leads to better results for kids.

  2. BEGIN to fully fund our schools - restore our funding to at least the regional average so that we can provide a quality education. Incorporate funding for wraparound services like mental health services, feeding programs, literacy, and mentoring.

  3. DROP unnecessary mandates - high stakes testing and a flawed A-F school grading system are distractions that don’t put us on the road to success.

  4. ELEVATE the teaching profession in Oklahoma - offer competitive pay, educational opportunities, respect, and resources for our educators. Let’s end the teacher exodus.


We eagerly anticipate advocating for Oklahoma’s nearly 700,000 kids in public schools alongside our growing network of public education advocates and allies across all 77 counties.

May the hope of brighter days ahead be a reality as we work together for all Oklahoma kids. We are for you, educators!

SQ801 promotes competition over cooperation

Governors will come and go in four years, but constitutional amendments can last generations. In this election then, perhaps despite all the energy on candidates, we need to review the lasting effects of the state questions before us on November 6th. The lasting effects of State Question 801 could negatively impact Oklahoma children for decades.

The voices of warning were not loud enough when we passed a constitutional change that made new revenue last spring nearly impossible. Grave consequences were not spelled out that a simple majority could cut us to the bone, but getting a supermajority to increase funding when we were faltering would be questionable.

SQ801 that Oklahomans will vote on November 6 is well-intentioned but not well thought-out in relation to the consequences on our public schools for three primary reasons.

One, we are either for all Oklahoma children, or we’re not. There is no middle ground here. If we believe the framers of our state constitution, we should provide for all the children of the state of Oklahoma.

The rise of inequity from haves to have-nots is something our equalization formula has sought to fix across our state due to the deeply rooted faith and beliefs of Oklahomans that we value all children.

However, SQ801 will lead us away from God’s common good for all children. Children that live in wealthy districts will begin to see more and more advantages and children in poor districts will see less advantages.

Currently there are only a handful of districts in our state that do not already use their building fund to the maximum, and there are many ways to use it for building-related expenses like insurance, maintenance staff on the facilities, and repairs that happen regularly.

Secondly, by combining it with general operating funds, those schools who have the ability to do so will indeed be able to pay teachers more from those funds. The majority of school boards will now be placed in a tough spot: Give raises like the legislature suggests should be possible or pay to fix the leaking roof and black mold?

The legislature will be able to wash their hands and point back to our local school boards - as if the locally elected school board is at fault.

Finally, this adds no new funding to our schools. We will still be incredibly low and under the regional average in per pupil funding. And that’s in one of the lower regions across the United States. SQ801 would not change this in any way, but it does give our legislators the ability to point to something they’ve done to “help” public schools. SQ801 is no solution at all.

Oklahomans don’t believe only children in rich districts should be afforded resources and teachers. And so we send state aid to those who need it most, many times in rural areas, so that every child in our state is afforded a chance at a good quality education.

We are in this together. That’s why cooperation, rather than competition, speaks to our shared duty to educate our state’s children. If we truly believe God’s common good is for all people, then we cannot support a measure that forever alters our state constitution and promotes inequity for Oklahoma kids.

PRESS RELEASE: Pastors for Oklahoma Kids Names First Executive Director

PASTORS FOR OKLAHOMA KIDS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 4, 2018


Pastors for Oklahoma Kids Names First Executive Director

Edmond, OK - The Board of Directors of Pastors for Oklahoma Kids is pleased to announce the appointment of Pastor Clark Frailey as the non-profit organization’s first Executive Director. Pastors for Oklahoma Kids began as a shared dream of three Oklahoma City metro pastors in 2016 to advocate for public school children, their teachers, and communities across the state.

Over the past two years Pastor Clark has become an increasingly active voice advocating for the nearly 700,000 children in public schools across the state of Oklahoma.

“It is an honor to share Pastors for Oklahoma Kids’ mission to promote the right of every child in Oklahoma to a quality and equitable public education,” Frailey said. “The strategic vision our pastors have to strengthen, encourage, and foster cooperative relationships between Oklahoma churches and our local public schools has the potential to shape our state in a positive way for generations to come.”

Frailey serves as Lead Pastor at Coffee Creek Church in Edmond with over 18 years experience as a senior pastor. During this time he has served in cities across Oklahoma and consistently sought ways for the churches he has led to be involved in their local public schools.

“My consistent approach to our work with schools has been a ‘here to serve’ attitude. When we volunteer and advocate without agenda, with no ulterior motives - schools, staff, and students benefit,” added Frailey.

A native Oklahoman, Pastor Clark graduated from public school in Olive, Oklahoma, and earned a BA from Oklahoma Baptist University and an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

 

ABOUT PASTORS FOR OKLAHOMA KIDS

Founded in 2016, Pastors for Oklahoma Kids in an Oklahoma non-profit dedicated to advocating for Oklahoma’s 700,000 public school children.  Additional details are available here pastorsforoklahomakids.com or facebook.com/pastorsforoklahomakids


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