For almost 30 years now the decisions for educating our children here in Oklahoma public schools have been slowly turned over to the Legislature. As Legislators, we never wanted or desired this. However, critical areas such as funding, standards and curriculum have been given to politicians and bureaucrats where they don’t belong . . . and why? Simply put – it is because the public has continued to lose confidence in the quality of our education system over the years (regrettably, our test scores, graduation rates, and college readiness bear this out).
It was never meant to be this way. We need to turn the education of our children back to “local control.” Parents all across the state need to have faith in our schools once again and we need to support our teachers. This can only take place with parental and community involvement.
Oklahoma can get it done and we must.
Educators, parents, students, and most importantly, locally elected school boards should be making these important decisions. The whole point of “local-control” is a philosophy “that the governing and management of public schools should be done by local school boards” Why? Because they are closer to the schools and the issues they face. It only makes sense that they are better suited to make decisions on the policies, welfare, and success of their schools and students.
The Founding Fathers felt that “government works best when it’s closest to the people.” The same can be said of public education. Government bureaucracies like the Department of Education (whether federal or state), unions, lobbyists or legislative bodies were never meant to do what should be done at the local level.
We need to ask ourselves some important questions like the following:
- With continued state and federal declining revenues, how do we continue to pass down mandates without the funding to implement them?
- Do we expect kids to learn if we continue to take away valuable teaching time in the classroom for testing and after-school extracurricular activities (Finland has the No. 1 schools in the world with only 1 mandated test a year)?
- How do we encourage fiscal responsibility of ad-valorem taxes, millages and budgeted monies if local school districts are overly reliant on a centralized system and funding formula at the state?
- How can we ever get good teachers to teach and be creative if they are increasingly burdened by directives and regulations from federal and state agencies?
- How do you attract and retain good teachers by getting the right amount of money to the classroom where it belongs unless we eliminate unnecessary administrative costs?
- How do we get college students to pursue the teaching professions if they don’t feel like they will have support in the classroom?
You see what I’m getting at? It’s insanity to keep going down this same path. Our teachers and students deserve better. The federal and state government should not be making these decisions, nor should the unions or education special interest groups. You should!
That’s why legislators, like myself believe in “local-control.” It allows school boards, parents, educators and students greater control over their own schools. The local school district would then set and manage its own money, pay scale, health care, benefits package, etc., for its schools – not state politicians or bureaucrats. The local school boards and administration would then be responsible for the product they turn out (and they pay for it out of their own existing revenue sources). This allows the community more involvement and PTAs to take back the influence they have lost to the unions, bureaucrats and special interest groups over the years. These unelected groups have made decisions based on their own self-interest far too long and not that of our teachers and students, who count the most.
The future of our schools and quality of our republic depends on returning back to “local-control.”
George Washington was such an advocate of good education that he said that “knowledge is the surest basis of public happiness.” It is time to support our teachers and students with a return to “local-control” and start holding folks accountable for supporting our teachers in the classroom. If we don’t, we will continue to struggle and likely lose a generation of our children in Oklahoma.